Lamar Co. Schools respond to Senate bill requiring appointed superintendents

Lamar Co. Schools respond to Senate bill requiring appointed superintendents
Two Lamar County educators recieving multiple awards. By Bailey Maloney

LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The Lamar County School District is responding to the Mississippi Senate passing a bill requiring appointed superintendents.

On Monday, April 11, Gov. Phil Bryant signed the Senate bill.

Superintendent Tess Smith is one of 55 elected superintendents in the state, and said she has some concerns if the change takes effect in 2019.

"One thing that shocked me with it was, you know there was a bill last year that did not make it all the way through, and that bill, I would've been allowed to finish my term," Smith said. "Then there would have been an appointment to follow after that. Well with this one, I'll be one year shy of finishing my term, and I just wonder how that will work because, you know, I was officially elected by the public of this district. So I do have that question, and that does concern me. You know, I had planned on those four years for sure."

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said the bill removes the restrictions associated with elections.

"I appreciate the work of Chairman Tollison and the entire Senate in moving this important legislation," Reeves said. "Limiting the pool of qualified educators to political boundaries hampers many school districts' opportunities for success. Districts should be able to perform broad searches to find leaders who will inspire teachers and encourage students to learn."

Smith said, "I do worry about the districts that would have to potentially increase the salary to get someone to come into their district. Depending on the district, depending on the area of the state, but if they start seeking say outside their county, what are they going to have to pay that superintendent to get them to move in."

Another concern Smith noted was removing the public's say in choosing a superintendent.

"They would not get a say in who sits in this chair. The people of Lamar County would only have a voice through the board members that they would elect," she said.

However, she does see removing the burden of campaigning as a benefit for appointments.

"Just thinking about the money, elections are very expensive," Smith said. "It was incredibly time consuming because I was already in the position, so I'd work a full day here and go and campaign, campaign on weekends. It's just very awkward to try and do the job and run for it at the same time. It takes you away from things, and there were times I worried that it took me away from this job. I had to struggle with that."

Despite her concerns about implementation logistics, Smith said she thinks appointed superintendents would be a positive change.

"I do think overall, it's probably best," Smith said.