Should We Elect The School Superintendent?

BY BUDDY NEVINS

Some have suggested we have an elected school superintendent in Broward.

One plus: An elected superintendent would be more responsive to the public.

I guarantee administrators would be more diligent about answering parents calls is their boss The Superintendent faced the voters every four years.

On the other hand, there is a couple of big negatives.  One is that anybody could run for the job. We could get somebody who is a good politician, but a lousy  administrator who knows nothing about education.

Another downside is that elections for superintendent would quickly degenerate into the same type of negative campaigns that already plague the entire political system. Many talented administrators would shy away from a campaign where they were the target.

Check out the campaign post card from the recent election for Leon County School Superintendent (click to enlarge):

 

 

The card is half accurate, like much of the campaign advertising produced in Broward.

Yes, Jackie Pons has a phys ed degree. Yes, Pons has a masters in education.  What isn’t mentioned is that the master’s was in education administration, which is essentially what a superintendent  does.

Half truth!

Yes, Pons was a basketball coach.  What isn’t mentioned is he was a basketball coach before he was an assistant principal at two schools, the principal at another and before he was named Principal of The Year.

Half truth!

Did the school system students do badly on the FCAT writing exam?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that Leon County scored above the state average in the FCAT in every subject for every grade level.

Although I don’t know where the candidate got the dropout rate figures cited in the post card, Leon County does not have the 5th highest drop-out rate in the state, according to the state Department of Education.

Sometimes this garbage works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.

Voters in Leon County were smart enough to ignore the attacks.  Pons was easily re-elected and remains the most popular elected official in Leon County in polls.



25 Responses to “Should We Elect The School Superintendent?”

  1. Stone Cold's Bottom Line says:

    Runcie has been a big disappointment.

    Look at the Miami Dade Superintendent. He is a leader and you don’t hear many, if any, negative stories or controversy anymore.

    Ms. Good, Ms. Rupert, please lead the charge. You know what needs to be done with the current Super.

    And that’s the bottom line ‘cuz Stone Cold says so!

    p.s. Elected Superintendent,…. interesting to ponder…

  2. Sam The Sham says:

    The reason anyone is talking about electing a superintendent is because the Skool Bored itself has abdicated their own responsibility and let staff run the show. If we had good board members this argument would go away. Maybe the new crop will do the trick.

  3. Real Deal says:

    Absolutely yes. Broward would be much better off with an elected superintendent and an advisory school board appointed by PTA representatives. We have it reverse.

    Kids will learn better and the school district run better with the single point of voter accountability.

    No doubt about it. Single point of accountability always beats management by committee. When an organization is small, it makes less of a difference. But the 5th largest school district in the nation needs an elected executive answerable to the people for results.

  4. just one vote in broward says:

    We would regret it only after a debacle that keeps them in office full term, i.e. the supervisor of elections. Alberto M. Carvalho is one in a million, dedicated and passionate who came up thru teacher ranks. http://superintendent.dadeschools.net/index.php?page=1

    Add to that integrity and ethics – he managed to get the voters to approve the billion dollar school bond on Nov. 6. And he has to battle the elected dade school board members. Unless there are similar selfless knowledgeable leaders/individuals, nothing will change, whether appointed or elected. Elections are a huge distraction, taking incumbents from their jobs. After 25 years of watching broward superintendents, its nothing more than feeding at the well paid public trough.

  5. Fly on the Wall says:

    Everyone seems to forget the amount of corruption we have involving our politicians. After working for the School Board, I do not understand why we do not have a Chief Financial Officer who runs the administrative portion of the District with experience in business and construction while the Superintendent is responsible for the educational success of the District. Many Superintendents experience is based in education and they are not really experienced in business or running large construction budgets. For the past 20 years, most of the School Board members have been either lawyers, principals or teachers. Why are they not “aware” of the financial mismanagement going on in the administrative side of the District. It is because they do not have the business experience needed. Someone needs to understand the importance of qualified employees (not just loyal employees), the importance of a centralized computer informational system, the importance of experience in present day technology in order not to buy equipment without the software to run it (done in transportation and purchasing). You are right, the School Board, as it is set up, are not supposed to communicate with employees, only their supervisors or directors who appear at the School Board meetings. There is no accountability for poor performance or attendance, no true evaluation(some managers allow employees to do their own)to improve the quality of performance. There has been a decrease in the qualifications for Directors or Supervisors even though there has been no decrease in salaries.Unqualified individuals run departments without analyzing what works and what doesn’t and making changes accordingly. There is no procedure of punitive action against employees who make false allegations or provide false information. When the motto is “Screw up, move up” or “If it works, fix it”, how do you expect one person, the present Superintendent to change the mindset of more than 30,000 employees overnight. The 3 past superintendents have been masters of smoke and mirrors.

  6. John Fusaro says:

    That’s all we need allowing political parties and special interests to influence the voting of the superintendent’s office. A special grand jury wanted to abolish the school board and get rid of its leadership.If Runcie is a failure then the blame lays at the feet of the school board and its members.

  7. Floridan says:

    If people think that current School Board members are incompetent and don’t respond to the public, what makes them think an elected superintendent would be any better?

  8. Kevin says:

    If I am not mistaken, there is a quirk in the State Constitution. School Boards are elected on a non-partisan basis, but Superintendents are elected with partisan labels (primaries and all, just like County Commissioners). Of course, a charter county can make these elections non-partisan.

    FROM BUDDY:

    There was a Constitutional Amendment a few years ago which altered School Board elections from partisan to non-partisan. It did not address the election of superintendents:

    SECTION 5. Superintendent of schools.—In each school district there shall be a superintendent of schools who shall be elected at the general election in each year the number of which is a multiple of four for a term of four years; or, when provided by resolution of the district school board, or by special law, approved by vote of the electors, the district school superintendent in any school district shall be employed by the district school board as provided by general law. The resolution or special law may be rescinded or repealed by either procedure after four years.
    History.—Am. proposed by Constitution Revision Commission, Revision No. 13, 1998, filed with the Secretary of State May 5, 1998; adopted 1998.

    General law, address in the paragraph above, expands to allow the appointment of a superintendent if approved by voters. You can also change back to the election of superintendent by a referendum.

  9. just one vote in broward says:

    Fly On The wall comment sums it up best.

    Hope Runcie and SBBC members read this blog
    Dade passed the bond because of Carvalho. Broward voters will NOT do the same. NO trust. NO leadership.

  10. Stone Cold's Bottom Line says:

    don’t y’all think that school board members should run partisan? There is an undeniable philosophical difference in governing between Dems and Repubs…. Katie Leach is not your typical Republican, she is moderate and rational, as is Donna Korn (even though I think we would have been better served by Mr. Sands, …. anyway) …. Karen Insane Harrington, if she ran, would not y’all want to know she is a Tea Party Republican?… Tell me if they are a Dem or a Rep, and i will go research on my own if they are moderate, liberal or conservative… Very important..

  11. Fly on the Wall says:

    To Stone Cold,

    If Mrs. Leach is a moderate, why did she and Donna Korn as Board Members vote to support Amendment 8 which is give public school money to religious schools? Mrs. Leach was supported by the Tea Party until she supported a LGBT day for schools in the last year. Mrs. Leach also violated her required responsibilities as a School Board member and directed Superintendent Runcie and the rest of the Board to vote to fire the cheerleading coach at Parkland. If a report from the Special Investigative Unit (the police unit of the School Board) found the coach had not committed any violation, why did the Board just ignore this department’s investigation that public taxes are paying for? I don’t believe her actions have qualified her as a moderate.

  12. Stone Cold's Bottom Line says:

    to Fly on the Wall:

    Son, i posed a rhetorical question about the elections being partisan or not. Why doncha’ you answer my question first!@… then we can talk about the individual members…

  13. Fly on the Wall says:

    Stone Cold,

    First, I do not believe in electing the Superintendent of Schools. Secondly, I do believe there are philosophical differences between the two parties. Therefore, I believe the elections for School Board members should be partisan. During these campaigns, very few candidates will take a stand or make any statements to give an indication as to which philosophies they support. The Democrats have long supported public education, not the privatization of it. The two candidates who were appointed by Governor Rick Scott were very quiet during their campaigns regarding their appointments and what action they would take about improving public education.

  14. just one vote in broward says:

    to your comment on
    “The Democrats have long supported public education, not the privatization of it.”

    could this not be the result of the classroom and admin conditions in FL public schools (and maybe elsewhere)these days? the simple fact that there will be two performance ‘bars’ for students based on ethnic/race demonstrates to me the public schools are not delivering a quality or even mediocre education.

  15. Fly on the Wall says:

    To Just One Vote:

    How did we lose our Search for Excellence in 15 years and allow mediocre individuals to become responsible for our children’s education. Is it because we as a nation have lost our respect for our teachers that we pay them so little for their commitment to our children and resent their benefits and retirement pay, have allowed indivduals to teach who do not inspire our children, do not find new teaching methods to challenge our children, or perhaps children have parents who don’t know what a parent is and think their teacher or even their child is responsible for what they learn? Are we yet just a nation of reality shows, material needs, “I’ve got mine, you get yours.” I had a public education because of my family’s financial income, not because I didn’t qualify for an ivy league school and there are a lot of children out there in the same shoes I was in. As to administators and school superintendents, many of them received their positions because they just couldn’t teach, not that they were better qualified in business or construction or technology and they were promoted up the ladder, especially if they were politically supported. Look at Miami Dade County’s Superintendent of Schools – Broward County Schools contacted him to be their Superintendent. He is the model of a School Superintendent we are looking for. What about my suggestion of a Superintendent of Schools for educational success and a CEO for running the everyday business of the District. After all, Broward County Schools is the largest employer in this county? People will only get what they expect so choose to have an excellent school district instead of a mediocre one.
    It will be interesting to see what this School Board’s success is especially when its composition is very similar to the same ones for the past 20 years.

  16. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    It’s about the board members,their ethical makup and what they expect of the sup’t., not about election or appointment.

    Think back about the many grand juries and their many condemnations but no indictments we’ve seen.

    Business as usual went on because the board majority wanted it that way and the superintendents went along to keep their jobs.

    The atmosphere changed only when the FBI got involved and Beverly Gallagher went to federal prison.

    Then others resigned after certain facts came out,or decided not to run, and it looks like we now actually have a board that will act in the best interests of the public. Especially since they want to get a bond issue passed.

    But we here in Broward are veterans of the past corruption in Dade, and it’ll take lots of evidence, at least for this old war horse, to convince the public that the district is trustworthy.

    Sup’t. Runcie is aware of what he has to do, and the board needs to let him do it. Cleaning up the Faclities Dept. is a good beginning.

    So is his support of the Office of the Chief Auditor, which has been pointing out the deficiencies for years.

    The Transportation mess didn’t help the reform effort, but we’re going to see the reorganization at an upcoming workshop. That will tell us a great deal about what to expect going forward.

    As for the bond issue in Dade, it pased because Norman Braman donated a large sum to the effort and gave it his blessing.People trust him, with good reason, given his success in ousting corrupt politicians and changing the way Dade works.

    The Dade sup’t. is a shrewd operator and that system isn’t a paragon of virtue. Lest we forget his close relationship and steamy emails exchanged with the Miami Herald reporter who was fired from her subsequent position with the Boston Globe after the scandal became public.

    Kind of similar to the disgraceful situation we here have with a former board member and a state senator.

    At least one very ethical and respected board member in Dade didn’t support the bond issue, but didn’t speak out publicly because of Braman’s involvement.

    The last bond issue that passed in Dade was so badly misused that I apologized personally to the public for supporting it. But of course no investigation happened and no one wanted to admit it had been a disaster, much like the previous bond issue that passed here.

    It all boils down to the knowledge and interest of he electorate, and the ongoing struggle to separate the hacks from the real pubic servants. The machine politics in this county, as well as in others, is a barrier to that end. But sometimes the good people win, and anyway, all the other systems are so much worse, to quote that famous Frenchman.

  17. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    It’s supposed to be “public” servants.

  18. Oh No Little Man says:

    @ Fly on the Wall
    “Look at Miami Dade County’s Superintendent of Schools – Broward County Schools contacted him to be their Superintendent. He is the model of a School Superintendent we are looking for.” Sup Carvalho was NEVER contacted to be the superintendent of Broward. He is a PR master, but not a leader.
    After the bold decisions being made by Superintendent Runcie it is clear that Broward has a true leader at the helm.

  19. Dear Fly says:

    If you are going to pretend to know what you are talking about please do a better job.

    First, Leach had it all over her Facebook pages that she was opposed to Amendment 8.

    Second, Leach never sought out any endorsement from the Tea Party. She did not even attend their candidate forum. It was upon Ms. Leach being endorsed by Equality Florida that the Tea Party forced her to choose either being supported by the Tea Party or Equality Florida, and she choose Equality Florida.

    No hard core conservative republican would have had the backbone to stand up to the Tea Party and say no thanks to their support.

    Finally, may I remind you Ms. Leach took a hair under 60% of the vote in a Democrat year against two opponents. The voters like Stone Cold went and did their own research on her and realized she wa a true moderate.

  20. Fly on the Wall says:

    Ms. Greenbarg,

    FYI, there was an Inspector General assigned to Miami Dade County Schools because of that bond issue for many years beginning in 1997. This was prior to Cavalho and during the term of the previous superintendent. Miami Dade County has been beating out Broward in awards for the last two years and also in grants. I have been a supporter of Runcie since he was hired. It is interesting to note, Board member Anne Murray held a high position in Transportation for a number of years but no one every complained about the amount of money (higher per student than any other district in Florida)spent as long as there were few parent complaints. Why didn’t Ms. Murray given Runcie a heads up when the cuts were made in Transportation? Also, who recommended the software program to the Board several years ago in Transportation to track the number of students and routes? Over $500,000 was paid for this program that was never used.

  21. Fly on the Wall says:

    Dear Fly,

    Please look at the School Board member vote on supporting No on Amendment 8. You may be surprised to find out Ms. Leach voted against it. You can find it in Board Meeting notes on the School Board website.

    Ms. Leach also had several contributions in her campaign from the one sole source insurance company of the School Board and several charter school companies.

    I believe in fixing our public school system instead of privatizing it for capital gain rather than quality education. It is easier to start all over rather than spend the time fixing the problems. Charter schools has changed the percentage of students who don’t graduate.

  22. Fly on the Wall says:

    Should read charter schools have NOT changed the percentage of students who don’t graduate.

  23. @ Fly on the Wall says:

    http://www.becon.tv/
    On Demand
    School Board Meeting
    October 2

    View the meeting yourself.
    “I remember when the class size amendment was on the ballot several years ago, I called Robin and other board members and asked them what the board thought and they wouldn’t tell me b/c they didn’t take an official stance on the amendment b/c it was inappropriate to do so…….
    I would like to go on record that I will NOT be voting for amendment 8 cannot support this resolution…..

  24. Leach & Korn says:

    Amendment 8 would have violated the US Constitution and therefore posed a genuine risk of draining large numbers of dollars away from classrooms and into lawsuits. The School Board therefore acted correctly when it voted to express its opposition to Amendment 8.

    Both Leach and Korn voted otherwise. They didn’t want to tell the voters that with Amendment 8, taxpayer dollars would be taken away from the classroom and thrown down the drain, and that Amendment 8 represented very bad School Board policy.

    It”s no coincidence that Leach and Korn are the two Republicans. Bashing the separation of church and state is just typical Republican disrespect for the Constitution.

    These bad votes from Leach & Korn will certainly be remembered – and held against them – when they come up for re-election.

    FROM BUDDY: Both just won four year terms, so you’ll have to wait until 2016.

  25. Stone Cold's Bottom Line says:

    Hey Charlotte Greenbarg!

    What do you care about the Miami Superintendent’s personal life and romance?

    The man is human, right? last i checked, the greatest U.S. President, Mr. Clinton, had some misjudgments in his personal life, correct?

    And your best buddy, Hank Mack, Broward School Board Audit Committee Chair, was written about for taking vendor sponsored/paid for trips gratis, to where was it, California…..

    Pleeeease, don’t be uptight and judgemental… it doesn’t make you look so good… The Miami Superintendent is doing one hell of a job! Passing bond referendums in this economic and public doubting time by a 70-30 margin is much impressario!!! and he got it done, not his Board!

    and that is the bottom line ‘cuz Stone Cold says so!

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