Pensacola, Florida
Saturday August 24th 2019


Outtakes—Super Sabotage

By Rick Outzen

Last year, 62,418 Escambia voters approved a referendum changing the school superintendent position from an elected post to one appointed by the school board. The victory was a blow to the egos of three-term Superintendent Malcolm Thomas and the clueless, white school board members who congratulate themselves for their leadership.

On August 15, the Escambia County School Board will approve a series of policies recommended by Thomas and his administrative team—policies that will set up the appointed superintendent like a constitutional officer, make him nearly impossible to fire and will guarantee the superintendent will be paid for his entire contract, even if four board members terminate his employment.

An appointed school superintendent isn’t an outlier. The vast majority of school districts in the country have appointed superintendents. Florida is one of the last states that hold elections for the position. Our state has 26 districts with appointed superintendents.

Escambia County has more than enough examples for making the shift, but Thomas and his crew have chosen a more complicated path. And the school board, except for Kevin Adams and Dr. Laura Edler, seem ready to approve the recommendations without any analysis of how other boards handle appointed superintendents.

St. Johns County has the top school district in Florida. The district has about 2,000 more students than Escambia. The school board’s policies set forth the responsibilities of the superintendent in three concise paragraphs. He is responsible for the administration of the district and must keep the board informed of all phases of the school system. He is the executive officer of the school board, and all staff is under his supervision and direction.

The proposed policy for the Escambia County School District has three paragraphs that explain the relationship between the board and superintendent and four more on the powers of the superintendent. A separate section deals with the specifications of the superintendent’s contract and how he will be paid his full contract if fired without cause by four board members.

The St. Johns superintendent has a performance-based contract tied to his annual evaluation and maintaining his certifications. The evaluation is divided into eight categories and 37 subcategories. If the results show the superintendent met expectations in all eight categories, his base salary is increased by a percentage equal to the percentage of the aggregate base compensation increase awarded the district’s teachers.

The contract identifies specific causes for termination, such as immorality, misconduct in office, incompetence and gross insubordination. If he is fired without cause, the superintendent is paid severance pay equal to 20 weeks base compensation. Termination requires three votes of the school board.

Don’t let Malcolm Thomas sabotage the appointed superintendent system before it’s ever implemented. Contact your school board member.