Members of the House Education Committee meet ahead of the legislative deadline on Monday.

School superintendents might not be required to have degrees or experience in educational administration if a bill passed by the House Education Committee Monday is approved by legislators.

House Bill 442, authored by Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, would allow individuals with a master’s degree in any field or individuals with a bachelor’s degree and at least 10 years of experience in an administrative, senior management or supervisory position to be eligible to become school superintendents.

Those with a bachelor’s and the required job experience must also be approved by the local “all-elected” school board. It is not clear whether they would also require approval by appointed school boards.

The bill prompted Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, D-Gulfport, to ask the question: “So who are you all really trying to get a job for? It sounds like somebody’s trying to get a job for somebody in particular.”

Formby responded that he came up with the bill based on a conversation with a man in his district who wanted to run for superintendent years ago. That individual is now deceased, he said.

Reps. Dana Criswell, (left) Steve Hopkins, and Joel Bomgar (right) consider several bills at the House Education Committee meeting.

“I had to tell him he was not qualified to run. He had been director of the Stennis Space Center … had a degree in aerospace engineering and managed dozens of people,” Formby said.

Currently, school superintendents are required to hold a valid administrator’s license from the state and at least four years of classroom or administrative experience.

“There are lots of people out there … who would be qualified to come in and run, manage an education system and obviously could surround themselves with people that have specific knowledge of different disciplines,” he said.

The committee passed HB442 on a voice vote.

Sam Bounds, executive director of the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents, said as long as the decision was ultimately left up to the school board, he approved.

“I can’t criticize anything that would increase the quality or the depth of the (candidate) pool,” Bounds said.

The committee also passed:

HB267, requiring election of school board members at the same time as the presidential or general statewide elections

HB875, which changes the school conservatorship process to Districts of Transformation, where school districts rated “D” or “F” must maintain a “C” or higher rating for 5 years before coming out from under state control. There is currently no academic requirement for school districts to regain local control.

 

Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.