Jefferson County Commission Calls on General Assembly to Give School Districts the Option of Elected School Superintendents

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By David Seal [Special to The Tennessee Conservative] –

Jefferson County Commission approved a resolution calling on the Tennessee General Assembly to enact legislation that would provide local school districts, cities, or counties, the option of electing their school superintendents.

Resolution 2022-11 was approved in a 13-6 vote after a failed attempt in October 2021 in which several conservative county commissioners were absent from the voting meeting. The approved resolution was spearheaded by Commissioner Marcus Reed and moved for consideration by Commissioners Ronny Coleman and Rob Blevins. 

The resolution states that voters of a school district, city, or county deserve the right to elect school superintendents, that Public Act 535 (1992) fundamentally changed the way school superintendents are chosen by disenfranchising voters that would otherwise be able to choose school superintendents by election, and that elected superintendents would be grounded in their communities and connected to their constituents by campaign activities. The Jefferson County resolution emphasizes that school superintendents manage a substantial amount of public funds and that appointed directors work at the pleasure of their respective school boards and are not directly accountable to the voters and taxpayers of a school district.

Liberals have long argued in favor of appointed school directors and contend that school directors should be chosen from a large pool of prospective applicants, including those that may be drawn from outside the community, and that a director demonstrating poor job performance can be terminated at-will by the school board. The political left and globalists also argue that a corporate “CEO” model of school governance is preferable because it “takes the politics out of education”.

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Two bills were considered by the Tennessee General Assembly in the 2022 legislative session concerning a return to elected school superintendents. SB 1010 and HB 1228 sponsored by Senator Janice Bowling and Representative Paul Sherrell, respectively, were deferred to “Summer Study” by the House Education Sub-Committee; and SB1954 and HB 2079 sponsored by Senator Frank Niceley and Representative Dave Wright, respectively, failed in the Senate Education Committee in a tie vote.

New bills are expected to be filed in the 2023 legislative session to return the right of voters to elect their school superintendents.

State Senators Niceley and Bowling commented as follows for this article.

“We have a lot of debate on school policy and what we teach in our schools. Appointed school directors only have to please a majority of school board members, concentrating political power to a small number of people. If school superintendents were elected by the people, we would see fewer controversial practices in schools because directors would have to answer to voters, parents and taxpayers” -Senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains)

“Some have asked’ why should school districts be allowed to elect their superintendent?… realizing that the superintendent manages the largest portion of each local budget, manages the largest number of employees in most localities, and most importantly, has direct management and direction for the most treasured portion of each community, our children. My question is why shouldn’t each citizen have a vote in who will have direct control of these three components, our money, our teachers, and most importantly, our children!!!” -Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) 

About the Author: David Seal is a retired Jefferson County educator, recognized artist, local businessman, and current Chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party. He has also served Jefferson County as a County Commissioner and is a lobbyist for the people on issues such as eminent domain, property rights, education, and broadband accessibility on the state level.

One thought on “Jefferson County Commission Calls on General Assembly to Give School Districts the Option of Elected School Superintendents

  • August 12, 2022 at 5:10 pm

    Electing officials is a fine idea in theory. The problem there is little way for the average citizen to get background information on any of the officials that get elected. Our local Newspaper does no reporting on those running, it just runs their ads. I wonder if the citizens of Jefferson County can elect anyone, any better than those doing the appointing. All I see is the “good old boy” network in our local politics.


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