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The Scoop - Don't elect school superintendents
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There's always a rallying cry for less government in our lives.

We the people of Tennessee don't want government intrusion and we definitely don't want government officials to tell us what to do.

Then about this time every year our state leaders meet in Nashville and file 2,000 to 3,000 bills. If passed, these bills will represent all new cases of the government telling us what to do and how to live.

Wait ... I thought that was a bad thing. Let's pretend we don't notice and nod our heads in agreement when our elected officials claim they want less government.

With so many new bills proposed every year, there's bound to be some fluff. One bill I understand is on its way to being filed by the early February deadline is a plan to do away with appointing school directors. The bill would revert back to the old method of electing school superintendents.

The bill is the perfect example of how state lawmakers continue to meddle unnecessarily with education. Every few years our school teachers are forced to change course because the Tennessee General Assembly just can't stand to leave our schools alone.

If you recall, Pedro Paz was our last elected school superindent when he won election in 1996. Pedro was an all-around great guy so it was no problem for him to win election.

While Pedro was in office, our state lawmakers decided it would be best to appoint our school superintendents. So when Pedro's term expired on Aug. 31, 2000, he left office and Jerry Hale was appointed as our first director of schools.

Jerry served for 12 years and never had to disrupt his schedule with having to mount an election campaign. He could concentrate on what's best for local schools.

After Jerry retired, Bobby Cox was appointed as our director of schools and he served for eight years. Grant Swallows now holds that distinction and he's in the midst of his second school year.

So now there's talk of going back to the old way and electing our top school official by popular vote. Personally, I prefer the method of appointing our director of schools and believe it has worked well the past three times.

I especially like the transparency of the School Board during the last selection process. All of the interviews were broadcast on the school system's TV channel so the entire community could listen to the four finalists as they were interviewed.

To revert back to the old system would be to do what the state always does when it comes to education. It changes course.

Think of how productivity might be impacted at your business if every few years you had to stop what you're doing and adopt an entirely new way of doing business. That's exactly what happens with Tennessee public education.

Our state leaders should follow their own advice. The best government is less government. Maybe if they stopped tinkering with education so much, we could realize some gains in the classroom.

Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.