What's the big rush to pick a new state superintendent?

Last week, four legislators issued a statement of concern about the apparent rush to replace Utah State Superintendent Larry Shumway, pointing out that the application window closes before November’s elections – in which half the school board will be replaced.

“Why should the old board select leaders for the new board?” wrote House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, Senate Public Education Appropriation Chair Howard Stephenson, Representative Dan McCay and Senate Rules Chair Margaret Dayton.

“New members should have a voice, ownership and confidence in the new superintendent. Making a decision that excludes the newly elected voices flies in the face of representative government.”

Sutherland also shares these concerns.

The legislators wrote in their press release:

The current application process for Superintendent Shumway’s replacement appears to be rushed.  Superintendent Shumway announced his resignation September 7, 2012. On September 11, 2012, The Utah State Board of Education published notice of the open seat with an application deadline of September 23, 2012.  A final decision is expected by mid-October. This two week window of application along with the truncated evaluation process will tend to deter qualified candidates from stepping forward and work against the collaborative effort need to fully weigh the merits of each finalist.

In addition, the Utah State Board of Education selection committee plans to make a final decision by mid-October, just a few short weeks before voters hit the polls in November. However, half of the School Board seats are up for a vote of the people. Utah will have new leaders. …

Indeed, it appears the Board of Education may have already selected the new superintendent and is now just going through the minimum necessary motions to make their choice legal.

The Board of Education responded:

Because Members of the Utah State Board of Education believe this to be a key position – if not the key position – in the state public education system, we are anxious to have someone on board sooner rather than later in order to have the new superintendent receive some mentoring from Superintendent Shumway and to have the new person up to speed in the job when the Legislature begins to meet in late January.

The Deseret News has also urged the State School Board to “slow down the process of replacing the state superintendent in order to find a proven champion for choice and accountability.”

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