As voters go to the polls today (Tuesday), they’ll notice one race that isn’t on the ballot — Superintendent of Education.
That’s because, as of Jan. 1, the person who fills that seat in all public schools is appointed by the local school board, according to a new law passed by the state Legislature.
Superintendent Tommy Parker of the Jones County School District was appointed back in December to continue serving a third term by the school district’s board of trustees. Contracts can be for a maximum of four years and they will begin on July 1 to avoid bringing in a new superintendent in the middle of the school year, which happened when new ones were elected in November started after the Christmas holidays.
Parker’s contract runs through June 2021. He will be evaluated in February of that year to find out if his contract will be extended or if he will be terminated, he said.
“We decided to go through the process together, the transition from elected to appointed,” Parker said.
When it was an elected position, superintendents were answerable to the voters, not the school board.
“Superintendents have gone from working with the school board to working for the school board,” Parker said.
He said he understands the reason for the change.
“A lot of districts have good superintendents who were elected,” Parker said, “but a lot of counties have a low population, so they don’t have a lot of people to choose from. This gives them the option of going outside the district to find qualified applicants to help move their school district forward.”
When it was an elected position, one of the qualifications for superintendent candidates is that they had to reside in the district where they were seeking the position.
Most applicants now go through the Mississippi School Board Association to apply for the job with their local school board. It’s the same process that municipal school districts have used for many years.
Parker said it could be a positive change.
“This makes the selection of school board members even more important,” he said.