Top educator needs an A

The public sets qualifications and standards for teachers, administrators, district superintendents and schools, but none exist for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the top educator position serving more than 5 million students and more than 500,000 school-related positions and employees.

It is time to set professional standards for the next SPI. The office has become a political springboard for politicians, rather than one of service by a qualified, experienced, nonpartisan educator who has a proven track record of leadership, educational innovation and administrative skills.

With the election for the SPI looming in 2002 (the next state election) articles, ideas and suggestions about how to solve California’s educational problems will be raining forth in a deluge. Real, tangible common-sense solutions that result in easily implemented programs will be few, if any. The net result is that California will continue to elect mediocre state superintendents, with few imaginative, challenging and/or risk-taking ideas to be set forth for discussion, debate and (heaven forbid) controversy. How do we resolve this?

The public needs to demand a set of professional standards for future candidates for the position of state superintendent. None presently exist. We require the attorney general to be a lawyer and member of the California State Bar. Judges must be experienced attorneys and members of the bar. Professional criteria must assure the public that the position is available only to highly qualified, experienced educators, not politicos.

Set forth below is a set of simple, easily administered standards for future candidates:

” Must have been a full-time, credentialed teacher with superior performance evaluations in grades K-12 for at least 10 consecutive years.

” Must have been a school, district or local educational agency administrator, including a principal, for at least 10 continuous years.

” Must have served as a district or county superintendent for at least 10 years.

” Must never have been fired, forced to resign nor had a contract “buy-out.”

“Must have received endorsements as “qualified” to serve from the districts served and by representatives for students, parents, teachers, administrators, school employees and the school board.

“Must have no record of being dismissed from service for any reason, including arrests, convictions or complaints involving moral turpitude (i.e. sexual harassment).

This set of standards will assure the public of a qualified educator with at least 30 years of superior performance before seeking the office of state superintendent. It will also restore this office to its nonpartisan status, and assure the public of an educator who is experienced with most facets of the state’s educational laws, policies, rules, regulations and programs.