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School board chairman: Moving to elected superintendent would be a step backward

House Bill 1079 filed last week calls for a term of four years for an elected superintendent

Duval County Public School Board Chairman Warren Jones (center) sits next to Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene (right) at a board meeting Tuesday night.
Duval County Public School Board Chairman Warren Jones (center) sits next to Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene (right) at a board meeting Tuesday night. (News4Jax)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County School Board Chairman Warren Jones said Wednesday it would be a mistake to pass legislation introduced last week by state Rep. Jason Fischer that could change the superintendent position in Jacksonville from appointed to elected.

“Just because you can get elected doesn’t mean you are the best qualified, it just means you were the best campaigner or the person who raised the most money,” Jones told News4Jax on Wednesday.

Jones also raised the point Tuesday night during a school board meeting, making his argument against an elected superintendent in a slideshow presentation.

His first point: learn from history. Jones said the district lost its accreditation under an elected superintendent in 1965. Jones also said superintendent appointments made by school board members draw from a larger pool of candidates, not just from people who live in Jacksonville.

“No NFL team draws just from people in that state,” Jones said during the board meeting. “They draw nationally and we should have the same responsibility.”

The legislation filed Friday, House Bill 1079, calls for a term of four years for an elected superintendent. It also states that any person elected to the position of the superintendent will be limited to two terms.

“This should be decided by voters, not by a small group of politicians,” Fischer, a former school board member, told News4Jax on Monday.

The bill, if it passes the Florida Legislature, would place a referendum on the 2020 ballot asking Duval County voters if they want to change the position from an appointed to an elected position. After that, it would set up a potential 2022 election for the superintendent position.

Fischer’s bill, which was first introduced in 2019, has gotten support from Mayor Lenny Curry.

“I would suggest this decision be made by the people themselves,” Curry said in August. “Let’s put in on the ballot and ask the people of Jacksonville.”

Looking at best practices nationwide, Jones said only two states, Alabama and Florida, even allow for an elected superintendent and the big seven school districts in the state all have appointed superintendents.

“We realized, when you look at all 67 districts in the state of Florida, the 14 lowest performing ones all have elected superintendents,” Jones said.

Fischer’s bill received support from the Duval County legislative delegation in a 6-2 vote last year.

The Duval County School Board voted unanimously in opposition.

Currently, the district is led by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Diana Greene, who was appointed by the school board.


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