Transformation: Should We Appoint or Elect the Superintendent of Schools?

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By Rev. R.B. Holmes
President/ Publisher

After talking with many African American leaders and citizens, we are of the opinion that we should continue to elect the Superintendent of Schools. Let me be clear, I am firmly in support of electing our Superintendent of Schools.

We have been fortunate in this county to have some strong leaders as our superintendents. I was extremely impressed with the leadership of Sen. Bill Montford, the immediate past Superintendent of Leon County Schools. He was a former high school principal and served in many other areas in the school system. Our present Superintendent of Schools, Jackie Pons, also was a successful high school principal, educator and coach.

The notion that we need a so-called professional superintendent, selected by an elected school board, may not be the way to go at this time. Many of the former superintendents came from the classroom and gained the experience to understand the needs of the students, teachers and parents. Listen, being in this community for close to 30 years; one thing I do know is that the voters of Leon County are smart, knowledgeable, vocal and focused. My suggestion is to let us continue to elect the superintendent.

As a matter of fact, in 1998, we overwhelmingly voted “No” to moving toward an appointed school leader. Just because a person is appointed does not take the politics out of the process. Most decisions in this community are politically driven and motivated. The truth is going to an appointed superintendent does not take politics out of the process; neither is it a silver bullet that can prevent missteps, alleged corruption and poor judgment.

As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, as a person of color, I don’t ever want to lose the right to vote for my political leaders. We have seen too much voter suppression, voter intimidation and policies to weaken the vote. Let me be clear: Black people in particular must never surrender the right to vote, and yes, even for your superintendent.

A national search must be conducted for the next city manager?

The Tallahassee City Commission must conduct a national search for the next city manager to replace perhaps one of this city’s most capable and competent city managers, Anita Favors Thompson. This city is at a critical cross road and we need to cast a wide and broad net to find the most talented and gifted city manager to lead this city. We are wrestling with police issues, the problem of poverty, the need for an expansive economic vision, the rebuilding of key communities, the public safety of our citizens, the challenges at the airport, a vibrant downtown and a host of other real-time issues. I hope the “fix” is not already done. To simply hand the job over to the “City Manager In Training,” is unacceptable. We must get this right. If there is someone already in the city who is duly qualified to become the next city manager, then let them apply. Get busy commissioners and do a national search for the next city manager.

We are one of the poorest counties in the country?

My goodness-the jury is in! Our great Leon County is one of the poorest counties in this country. People who are poor in Leon County will more than likely die poor. We must fix this problem and we must find a way to lift our people out of this ditch of poverty. We will share with you some of our ideas on how to address this issue at another time.

Some of the reasons for our poverty crisis are urban decay, gentrification, and broken families caused by mass incarceration. Hillary Clinton is correct, “mass incarceration leads to poverty.” In last week’s Capital Outlook we had a story about the 1.5 million Black men who are missing. Where are they? They are in jail; they are in the cemetery; they are homeless and sick. Stay tuned for our plan to help reduce the poverty rate in our great city.

Be Encouraged!


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