Lee County state rep wants voters to decide if school superintendent is elected

There is a push to include school superintendent on election ballots in a Southwest Florida school district. For this to become possible, it would first be up to state lawmakers and then, ultimately, voters.

We looked at why the position for Lee Count school superintendent is being thrown into the political ring.

In Lee County, Interim Superintendent Ken Savage recently assumed his new job this summer after former Superintendent Greg Adkins retired in June.

Savage understands his role at The School District of Lee County.

“I do work at the pleasure of the board,” Savage said.

Lee County School Board hired Savage, but there is a push to change that process.

“Having an elected superintendent directly accountable to the people, many parents feel is the best way to ensure that their voices will continue to be heard,” said State House Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka of District 78 (Fla-R).

Persons thinks Lee County voters should have the chance to decide if they want to elect their school superintendent. For that to happen, lawmakers would have to OK putting the question on the 2022 ballot.

School board chair Debbie Jordan told us she’s not ready to take a position on this idea yet. She has too many questions.

“What agenda do they follow? And where does that, how does that come into play when working together as a collective team?” Jordan said. “Who do they take the direction from?”

“The short answer is they report to the voters,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political scientist at UCF. “The school board is not their boss.”

Jewett told us 45 of Florida’s 69 school districts elect their superintendents. They’re mostly smaller districts.

If voters in Lee County decide to elect a superintendent, it would be the largest district to do so.

“If you have an appointed superintendent, the thought is the school board handles the political, and they’re elected; they debate and discuss; they make the policy,” Jewett said. “And then, the school superintendent is really just supposed to be a manager and administrator.”

Note: If the school superintendent became an elected office, the school board would no longer be able to fire a superintendent. That would be for the voters to decide.

Also in the works that would make every school district more political, State House Rep. Spencer Roach filed his own bill that would eliminate nonpartisan school board races. He argues many issues school boards face are in fact partisan, so the voters should know the party of the candidates.

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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