Now midway through his third term on the Cullman County Board of Education, Randy Hasenbein feels good about what he’s been able to accomplish the past decade.
But this week, he crossed a very big goal off his bucket list.
After 50 years under the current system, the Cullman County school board has taken the first step toward changing the superintendent from an elected to appointed position.
The board ratified a unanimous resolution at a specially called meeting Thursday night, which has been sent to local legislators urging them to make the change for Cullman County.
“After 30 years as a teacher and 10 on the school board, this is one of those big check marks on my list,” Hasenbein said. “Years from now we’ll be able to look back on this as a major moment and be proud we were a part of it. Anytime we can take the politics out of education, that’s a good thing.”
The resolution urges the legislature to repeal the local act providing for a superintendent’s election and enact a new system giving the school board authority to select and hire a superintendent.
If approved by the legislature, the new system would take effect at the end of current superintendent Billy Coleman’s term. Officials say they would hold an open search, likely contracting with the Alabama Association of School Boards for assistance. Public interviews would then be held with finalists.
The board is asking the legislature to approve the measure without a public vote. School board member Kenny Brockman said that was a logistical decision to ensure the change will be in effect before the next election, which is when the current superintendent term ends.
“We tried doing it before, because we had plenty of time before the election,” Brockman said of a similar initiative approximately two years ago that evolved into a statewide bill in the legislature. That measure would have affected every school system in the state and was quickly squashed. “That never came about, and if we tried to do it as a vote of the people now it would be on the same ballot as the next superintendent. That just wouldn’t work.”
Alabama is one of only three states that still have elected superintendents, and Cullman County is among 149 systems out of 15,000 that still hold an election to determine its chief officer.
Though the board says it is ecstatic with the job Coleman is doing, member James Thompson said he believes the decision will be to the long-term benefit of the school.
“This isn’t about the next two years or the next four years,” he said. “This is looking a long, long way down the line ... This will allow us to really find the best candidate out there, not just the ones willing to spend $30,000 and go through and election cycle.”
With the resolution now signed, the baton passes to the local legislative delegation to get the change approved as a local bill in the current session. The proposed bill will have to be posted for the required public notice period, then the local legislative delegation has pledged to sponsor it for passage.
“The resolution I saw was unanimous, and if the school board feels that is the best thing for the system, I’ll carry that legislation for them,” Senator Paul Bussman said. “In my opinion it will clear up a lot of problems you have with an elected superintendent. It takes a lot of pressure off teachers and staff. It also makes the superintendent accountable to the school board, who are the people elected to make those decisions.”
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.