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Bill would shorten county school board members’ terms

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

A state lawmaker wants to reduce the terms of elected county school board members from six to four years.

Sen. Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville, said his Senate Bill 9, pre-filed for the 2020 legislative session, came out of discussions and proposed legislation to make county school system superintendents appointed rather than elected. 

“My thoughts is that if we’re going to end up with appointed superintendents, then the boards that appoint them should be more quickly accountable to the people,” Givhan told Alabama Daily News.

“To me, that’s a fair trade.”

He pointed out that besides some judgeships, most elected offices in the state have four-year terms.

Legislation to end the elections of county superintendents and make them appointed, as city system leaders are, was approved in the Senate during the 2019 session but died in the House. Givhan was a co-sponsor on that bill. That proposal will likely return in the 2020 session.

“I think that if we’re going to have the best person (as superintendent), that’s not necessarily the most popular politician,” Givhan said. 

He said systems’ ability to recruit strong school leaders is hurt when the candidates find out they have to run for election.

Earlier this year, 37 of the state’s 137 superintendents were in elected positions. Some counties have gone to appointed leadership on their own.

The Alabama Association of School Boards is is evaluating Senate Bill 9 and would like to discuss it with Givhan, Executive Director Sally Smith said.

“Based on AASB’s preliminary information, our membership has a mixed reaction to this proposal,” she said. “A number of county board members already serve four-year terms, and any board can explore this option through local legislation. At a minimum, we would suggest a change of this nature be considered in conjunction with county school board redistricting which will occur after the 2020 census.”

The 2020 legislative session begins Feb. 4.

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