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Bill for option to elect superintendent raises questions

The Georgia Senate passed a resolution late last week for a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution to give counties in Georgia the option to elect or appoint school superintendents.

Counties had the option until 1992 to either elect a school board that would then higher a superintendent, or elect a superintendent and have a school board appointed by the grand jury. In 1992, an amendment was passed that all school boards in Georgia would be elected and then appoint a superintendent.

Senate Resolution 192, which is currently being debated in the Georgia House of Representatives, would restore the option. The resolution was authored by John Wilkinson, a Republican senator from Toccoa.

The superintendent in Wilkinson’s hometown was elected prior to 1992, and his constituents voted against changing the rule 25 years ago.

“It failed in many counties,” Wilkinson said of the 1992 amendment. “It failed in the county where I live, but once it passed, we had no choice. They had to be appointed. I don’t feel like that always has worked really good for us.”

His plan with the proposal is not to force counties to have elected It failed in many counties. It failed in the county where I live, but once it passed we had no choice they had to be appointed. I don’t feel like that always has worked really good for us., but to give the option to choose which system works better for them.

“This is not a bill to have the school superintendents in the state be elected,” he said. “This a bill to give the taxpayers a choice at the local level. I do not feel like it best for every school system to elect their school superintendent. If I felt it was, I would have written the legislation where it said every count school superintendent has to be elected.”

“I do not feel like it best for every school system to elect their school superintendent. If I felt it was, I would have written the legislation where it said every count school superintendent has to be elected.”

The last elected superintendent in Decatur County was Dr. Butch Moseley, who has served as both an elected and appointed superintendent in seven different counties in Georgia. He raised the concern that having an elected superintendent politicizes the position and also limits communities to hiring superintendents that live locally.

“I have seen some elected superintendents that have done very well and some that are political animals that don’t necessarily put the school district and the students first,” Mosely said. “The appointed superintendents give more options to hire sometimes better quality candidates. In some counties, you either don’t have highly qualified people or the highly qualified ones may not want it because of the politics.”

The current superintendent of Decatur County Schools, Tim Cochran, who was hired after serving in the same position in Atkinson County, echoed Mosely’s sentiments.

“I personally think it works well having the board elected and me appointed, because then it takes me out of being a politician and I can be an educator,” Cochran said.

If Atkinson had been an elected position at the time he was hired, Cochran said that he believes he wouldn’t have run for the job because of the aspect of becoming a politician. If the system were to change in Decatur County though, he said he pans to run for the position.

“At the end of the day, I am going to do my job, and if they change it to make it an elected position then I will be running,” he said. “I am going to do my job as long as this board wants me to and this community wants me to.”

He added that it doesn’t make sense to him to switch to an elected superintendent and an appointed board. 

“My thing is, if you are going to change it, make everything elected,” Cochran said. “If you are having a problem with an appointed superintendent, then why would you want appointed boards?”

If the resolution is passed by the house, the proposed amendment will then have to be approved by a majority of Georgia voters.

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