Pensacola, Florida
Monday October 15th 2018


Outtakes—Shift of Power

By Rick Outzen

Positive changes may be coming to the Escambia County School District. The Education Committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission unanimously voted to limit school board members to two four-year terms.

If the measure, sponsored by Collier County School Board member and CRC Commissioner Erika Donalds, is passed by the entire CRC, it will be on the 2018 ballot. Any proposals that go on the ballot need approval from 60 percent of voters to change the Florida Constitution.

Donalds’ proposal was patterned after the eight-year term limit for state lawmakers, which was adopted by voters in 1992.

“Term limits provide fresh faces and new ideas to elected office,” Donalds told The News Service of Florida. “Longtime politicians become entrenched with the status quo and develop pride in ownership of the bureaucracy they helped to create and sustain.”

Donalds added limiting terms will reduce the influence of special-interest groups in elections and remove the power of incumbency, making it easier for new members to join school boards.

Escambia School Board races are rarely competitive. Board members have historically served three or more terms. Kevin Adams is the newest board member who won after four-term Jeff Bergosh chose to seek the District 1 county commission seat.

I’m not sure if the CRC has accounted for the “Linda Moultrie” maneuver, which involves resigning mid-term and running again in the next election, but I’m hopeful they will block such shenanigans.

The Education Commission also approved another measure that could have an even more profound impact on public education in Escambia County. By a 6-2 vote, the commissioners adopted another proposal that would require all school districts to appoint their superintendents rather than have them elected.

Donalds said Florida is out of step since the overwhelming majority of school systems across the nation appoint superintendents.

Alabama and Florida are the only states with elected superintendents. Although a 1964 Florida amendment allowed each of its 67 counties to appoint its superintendents, 41 still choose election over appointment by an elected school board. Escambia, Pasco, Marion, Leon and Clay are Florida’s only large counties with elected superintendents.

Donalds argued that allowing the appointment of superintendents would broaden the pool of potential school administrators, rather than restricting the job to county residents through the elections process.

An appointed superintendent puts the power in the hands of the school board’s members. More leaders would seek the position, and those elected would understand they only have two terms to accomplish their goals.

I think I like the Florida Constitution Revision Commission process.