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Senator Dial Takes Action

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

Unbelievable as it may seem, according to Alabama law, the requirements for someone to be the superintendent of a local school system are much tougher than those to be state superintendent, which is about like saying an operating room nurse needs more training than the surgeon she is assisting.

Alabama Code Section 16-9-2 spells out the requirements for a local superintendent. for example: The county superintendent of education shall be chosen for his general fitness and character and shall be a person of recognized ability as a school administrator. No person shall be eligible for appointment by any county board of education or for any political party nomination, or for election to the office of county superintendent of education unless such person:

(1) Holds an Alabama certificate in administration and supervision based upon requirements established by the State Board of Education for such certificate;

(2) Has had not less than five years of experience in public school work at the time he assumes office;

(3) Submits proof to the State Superintendent of Education of three years of successful educational experience as a teacher, principal, supervisor, superintendent, educational administrator or instructor in school administration during the five years next preceding his appointment or election;

(4) Submits proof to the county board of education that he holds a degree from a recognized four-year college or university; and

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(5) If such person is to be appointed by the county board of education, submits proof to the county board that he is knowledgeable in school administration.

By comparison, here are the only qualifications for state superintendent as spelled out in Alabama Code Section 16-4-1:

As the chief executive officer of the State Department of Education there shall be a State Superintendent of Education, who shall be appointed by the State Board of Education and shall serve at the pleasure of the State Board of Education; provided, however that the State Board of Education may enter into a contract with the State Superintendent of Education for his services for a period not to exceed four years.

The Superintendent of Education shall be a person of good moral character, with academic and professional education equivalent to graduation from a standard university or college, who is knowledgeable in school administration and has training and experience sufficient to qualify him to perform the duties of his office.

The salary of the State Superintendent of Education shall be such amount per annum as shall be set by the State Board of Education in an amount within the range now or hereafter established by law, to be paid in installments from the annual appropriation of the State Department of Education.

That’s all. Just three short paragraphs. No requirement for Alabama certification, no requirement to have worked in a public school,. No proof that they are knowledgeable in school administration.

Senator Gerald Dial of Clay County, a one-time educator, doesn’t understand this double standard.

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“If you can’t be the superintendent in Clay County, how should you be the person over that superintendent?” Dial stated in this article by Mary Sell of The Decatur Daily. He also added, “It doesn’t make sense.”

So, Senator Dial has pre-filed a bill for the next regular session of the legislature that will require qualifications for state superintendent be in line with those of a local superintendent.

I agree with Senator Dial, this does not make sense. Of course, new state superintendent Michael Sentence could not be a local superintendent in Alabama because of his lack of qualifications. The fact that the state school board ignored these facts in making their hire is more proof that public schools in Alabama have fewer friends than they thought they had.

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