DeSantis signs bill adding referendum on whether Lee schools superintendent becomes elected position

Published: May 3, 2022 10:41 PM EDT
Updated: May 3, 2022 11:31 PM EDT
The School District of Lee County (CREDIT: WINK News)

Lee County voters will have an opportunity to decide whether the School District of Lee County superintendent position remains an appointed one or becomes an elected one.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill (HB 497) on Tuesday which will now put it on the ballot in a referendum in the upcoming General Election on November, 8.

This comes after several controversies at the school board in the past few years, most recently over the mask mandate.

Local lawmakers who pushed for the bill say they want the superintendent to reflect the values of the parents and students they will serve.

Only 12 states have, or allow, elected superintendents.

In a letter to the Florida Senate in February, the Lee County School Board wrote in part:

“Superintendents appointed by School Boards are vetted to ensure they have the qualifications, experience, character and proven leadership skills. In our recent Superintendent search, the School Board not only vetted each candidate closely, but, in addition, we hired expert consultants to attract candidates nationally, which widened the pool of qualified candidates, allowing for the highest degree of professionalism, expertise, and experience. With an elected Superintendent, the citizens are limited to choose from only those who live in Lee County and limits the pool of qualified applicants. The only qualifications required for a candidate to run for the position of elected Superintendent are to be free of felony convictions and to live in Lee County…”

“…While we want someone, who has the ability to maneuver through the politics of Lee County, the job of Chief Executive Officer/Superintendent must be one in which students  ake priority over politics. For these reasons, The School Board of Lee County opposes a referendum to change from an appointed Superintendent to an elected Superintendent.”