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Director in hands of School Board

Thousands of Warren County voters used to decide the person to lead our school system.

Now that decision is left in the hands of just six people – the six members of the School Board.

Now that Director of Schools Bobby Cox has announced his resignation at the end of this school year, the School Board is beginning the process of appointing Warren County’s third director.

Pedro Paz was our county’s last elected school superintendent. He served two terms, getting elected in August 1992 and August 1996.

When Paz finished his second term, a total of eight years in office, Jerry Hale was the county’s first appointed Director of Schools. Hale served 12 years from 2000 to 2012.

“Whoever gets appointed is going to have their work cut out for them,” said Hale, who described the job as stressful. “It takes a lot of effort and a lot of time. You have to deal with 7,000 people directly and half the county indirectly. You really don’t have any time off except when you’re able to get away and with cellphones now, you’re never really able to get away.”

Cox will have served eight full school years as director of schools when his resignation takes effect at the end of this school year.

Paz said he believes electing school superintendents was the better method.

“You’re better off electing them because that way they represent the people,” said Paz. “The way it is now, all you have to do is please four people.”

With a six-member School Board, all it takes is a majority, four votes, to get appointed or removed.

The School Board has said the job will be posted on the school system’s website Feb. 10-28. Applications will be reviewed the week of March 2 and candidates to interview will be discussed during a specially called School Board meeting March 9.

Last week, the School Board increased the requirements to at least a master’s degree with an EdS or doctorate degree preferred. There’s also a minimum requirement of three years of relevant experience.

The decision to change school superintendent to an appointed position instead of elected was part of the state’s Education Improvement Act, which was passed by the General Assembly in 1992 and took effect in 1994. 

However, the state gave school systems time to implement the changes and Warren County had one more election in 1996.

Supporters of the change said it would give school systems the ability to hire the most qualified person for the job, not necessarily the most popular. They also said getting elected required much time on the campaign trail, time which wasn’t being devoted to bettering schools.

Opponents said the change would shift the responsibility of picking a school director from the entire voting population to a select few. Paz dismissed the notion that campaigning was a time-consuming chore.

“People campaign from the day they’re born,” said Paz. “You campaign for a job. You campaign to get your wife. You campaign every time two people talk.”