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Texas Board of Education Rejects Proposed Changes to Superintendent Requirements

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Nathan Bernier/KUT
The SBOE voted Wednesday to reject a proposal to drop a current requirement that superintendents must have prior experience working in a classroom.

In a rare move, thehe State Board of Education preliminarily voted Wednesday against an amendment from the State Board of Educator Certification to change superintendent job requirements. Last month, the SBEC voted to loosen requirements so school boards can hire candidates who have no classroom experience. 

Multiple educator groups opposed the decision. They argued it is important for superintendents to understand what it's like to be a teacher. 

The SBEC originally approved two alternative pathways to become a superintendent. One pathway allows anyone with three years managerial experience at a public school district (not just principals) to apply. Candidates must have a master's degree, take the certification prep class and pass the certification test. 

The second pathway allows school boards to hire as superintendent anyone who enters a certification program and passes the certification test, as long as they have a post-baccalaureate degree.  Under this proposal, school boards would be required to publicly post why they are considering this particular candidate. SBEC members who supported the changes say school boards should be able to hire business leaders or other candidates, especially in rural areas where it's more difficult to find qualified applicants. 

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Credit SBOE
Current and proposed requirements for Texas superintendents.

The State Board of Education will have a final vote Friday. If they reject the proposal, they'll send the amendment back to SBEC and ask them to remove the second pathway. Still, the first pathway, which only requires three years managerial experience in a public school district could allow candidates without classroom experience to become a superintendent. 

Original Post (10/16/15)

Becoming the superintendent of a Texas school district will have fewer requirements.  In a 6-4 vote today, the State Board on Educator Certification, which oversees all educator certification in Texas, decided to loosen the requirements so school boards can now hire candidates who have no classroom experience. 

Under the amended rules, school boards can hire anyone as long as they enter a certification preparation program and pass the certification test. They also have to have a post-baccalaureate degree. In the past, superintendents needed to also have a principal certificate, which required classroom experience. 

“All this is, is a pathway," says Laurie Bricker, who serves on SBEC. "It’s not to water down the superintendency. If anything, it’s to provide clarity, transparency and accountability. And the board members have that responsibility.”

Bricker and other board members argued if school boards want to hire CFOs or CEOs of companies to run a school district, they should have that opportunity.

"You talk about Michael Dell, you talk about Bill Gates," says Leon Lean, another SBEC member. "They didn't even finish college. They don't have degrees. But I guarantee you any district in the state of Texas would jump on those guys in a heartbeat."

Over the past year, the Texas Education Agency held meetings with business leaders. They argued the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) should change the rules so school districts can attract a more diverse candidate pool for superintendents. At a meeting in August, the board preliminarily voted that as long as the candidates have a bachelor’s degree, complete the certification prep program and pass the exam, school boards should hire whoever they want.  

"We want to have the best people qualified, so, open up the pool and bring in the best people possible because they may not necessarily have an education background," Lean says.

Other board members this was an issue of local control.

“I very strongly support an alternative because I support a school board’s right to make the decision for their district," says Susan Simpson Hull, a SBEC board member and superintendent of Grand Prairie ISD.

The Texas Association of School Administrators and multiple teacher groups opposed the changes. The Association of Texas Professional Educators, the largest teacher’s organization in the state argued superintendents need to have experience in the classroom.  

“They need to know how education works," says Kate Kulhmann, a lobbyist for the union. "How management decisions affect the classrooms, simply because they’re making decisions every day about the students in those classrooms and what’s best for them.”

Right now, if a school board wants to hire a superintendent who doesn’t meet the state qualifications, they can apply for a waiver with the Texas Education Agency. Kulhmann says that waiver process requires more transparency and community input. At that August meeting, members of SBEC said school boards shouldn’t have to publicly explain why they’re hiring a candidate without teaching or principal experience.  But today, the board decided if a school board does hire someone without classroom experience, the board has to post reasons why that particular candidate was selected. The amended rules now head to the Texas State Board of Education for final approval. 

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