Voters: Super should be an elected post
by Michelle Babcock
May 28, 2014 04:00 AM | 3259 views | 8 8 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With Cherokee Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo’s contract set to expire in 2015, voters in the May 20 Republican primary overwhelmingly said they would prefer the superintendent to be an elected position. School board members, who are currently responsible for appointing the superintendent, and other officials feel otherwise.<br>Staff/File
With Cherokee Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo’s contract set to expire in 2015, voters in the May 20 Republican primary overwhelmingly said they would prefer the superintendent to be an elected position. School board members, who are currently responsible for appointing the superintendent, and other officials feel otherwise.
Staff/File
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CANTON — With Cherokee Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo’s contract set to expire in 2015, Cherokee County voters in the Republican primary overwhelmingly said they felt the superintendent should be an elected position.

A question on the May 20 Republican Primary ballot asked voters, “Do you feel the Cherokee County superintendent of schools should be an elected position?”

Nearly 74 percent of voters — 16,981 people — said yes, according to results from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Cherokee GOP Chairman Rick Davies said he supports the voice of the electorate being heard, but said the question needs a bit of clarification.

“I hope that people understand the role of the board members,” Davies said. “They are elected,

and (appointing a superintendent) is part of the role of the board members.”

Davies said voters get to decide on their board members, and the board members should be held accountable for their decisions.

“We elect the board members to be the voice of not only the children, but also of the people who put them into office,” Davies explained. “We have to put faith in the board members that they will do the right thing, not only for the children, but also for the residents that they represent.”

In 1992, an amendment to the Georgia Constitution made all school board seats elected positions and determined the school board would appoint its local superintendent, explained Angela Palm, director of policy and legislation for the Georgia School Boards Association.

“We were one of the organizations that led the battle to change it to the current way that it is,” Palm said. “Previously, the superintendent was an elected position ... It raised some issues.”

Palm said if superintendents were elected, rather than hired, each district’s choice would be limited to those who met the residency requirements.

“For any elected position, there’s a residency requirement. So, for a superintendent, they had to live in the school district for a certain length of time. If you’re looking for a new superintendent, that certainly limits the pool of candidates that you would be able to draw from,” Palm said.

Cherokee County’s last elected and first appointed superintendent was Shelby Craig ‘Corky’ Jones, who was replaced by Petruzielo in 1999.

Petruzielo came to Cherokee County from a position as the superintendent for a school district in Florida, and his contract with the local Board of Education has been continuously renewed since 1999.

Most recently, the school board voted in 2012 to renew Petruzielo’s contract through Aug. 20, 2015.

School Board member Rick Steiner, re-elected last week to serve another term, and all three newly elected school board members set to take office in January, agree the superintendent should be appointed and not elected.

Another issue, Palm said, is any time there is an election, there are choices made based on political motivation and not necessarily because it’s the best choice for students and the school district as a whole.

“Sometimes, very difficult decisions have to be made. The fact of how voters are going to respond to that would certainly come into play,” Palm explained. “The superintendent should be able to concentrate on the instruction aspects of education and make the recommendations to the school board, but they should be able to do that outside the political arena.”

Palm said the superintendent should be responsible to the board members, and the board members should be the ones responsible for representing voters.

“Let the superintendent concentrate on education,” Palm said.

Davies said the question on the May 20 ballot was submitted by a resident and approved by Republican Party leaders.

“The questions were submitted by different members in the community, and/or the party,” Davies explained. “They were voted on and approved by the executive committee for inclusion on the ballot. We actually had seven questions submitted and only two that made it on.”

Davies said in some states, superintendents are elected, and in others, including Georgia, superintendents are hired by the school board.

“I have not done a qualitative analysis to see if there’s any benefit, as far as test scores, or any benefit to student performance ... to determine which one method is better than the other,” Davies said, adding more research would be in order before he could come to a conclusion on the issue.

Comments
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bo duke
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May 29, 2014
I hope King P last day on the job is 8-20-2015 Its time for a new voice and a change for the schools. I have one vote and if the board offers King P a new contract I will vote against you I hope my friends and neighbors join me
Happy to see him GO!
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May 30, 2014
I voted to see it an appointed seat, myself. I have had children in the school system under an appointed and elected Super and for the most part my children had better experiences under the appointed ones.
Dee Osborne
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May 28, 2014
With only 30% of registered voters casting a ballot in the recent primary, I don't believe saying that voters overwhelmingly support electing our School Superintendent is accurate. Further, if you take into account the number of yes votes to this question in relation to our county's population the level of support for this is very small.

We have seen what politicizing our BOE can do and it was not in the best interest of our students, or our community. This idea is just more of the same.
Rick Davies
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May 28, 2014
Dee,

The number was actually closer to 20% but you highlight an important part of the problem. Nearly 80% of the voting populace is content to let the 20% that actually vote make decisions for them that will ultimately affect them in some way or another. Arguments could be made for the statistical incongruity that seems to be taking place, however, if higher percentages of voters came out the curve for/against might skew towards the downward slope, but I do not think the drop off would be exponential towards a no vote.

Regardless, as I stated in the article, people need to completely understand how the process works and the pros and cons of election versus appointment for this position. I don't think all of the data has been reviewed though on benefits and detriments to either method though which makes the choice that much more difficult.

Rick Davies
Dee Osborne
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May 29, 2014
Thank you for your response Rick. The issue of low voter turnout reinforces the idea that allowing our elected BOE members to vett and select our Superintendent as the best course of action.

Our BOE represents a cross section of the county, not just one portion. Were the position left to the voters; it is likely that only pockets of residents would participate in the process. Again, this increases the likelihood that an elected Superintendent may not be representative of the whole county. The concerns of parents living in one part of the county may not be shared by parents in another. Yet by working together; our Board members can make a decision that incorporates parental concerns from all areas.

I voted against this course of action because I want a Superintendent who is focused on our students not on the next election.
anonymous
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May 28, 2014
There was absolutely no reason to put this question on the ballot. It was done so by the CCRP to continue to stir the pot when it comes to education in Cherokee County. Enough with politicizing our children Mr. Davies. ENOUGH.
Rick Davies
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May 28, 2014
For your info *Anonymous*, the question was voted on by the Executive Committee and was included by majority vote. I have stated that multiple times in multiple venues of communication.

*I* am not politicizing anything. Must be nice to be able to anonymously criticize and do nothing to try and change things. At least have the courage to put your real name on a reply. I always sign my name to anything I type.

Feel free to contact me if you have any other concerns, anonymous, but until then, if you aren't willing to be part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Good day to you sir/madam.
ReasonableCitizen
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May 28, 2014
Mr. Davies,

If there is not a problem, does pretending one exists make it possible for a solution to present itself?
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