Last month the Oregon legislature abolished the position of elected superintendent and gave the responsibility to the governor who will appoint a deputy. The change won’t take place until Castillo leaves office. OregonLive reported
Last year’s re-election of Superintendent Susan Castillo — a well-liked but weak leader — provided a wake-up call. So did Oregon’s abject failure in the federal “Race to the Top” process and its disappearance from the ranks of innovative states. Oregon simply had to try something different or doom itself to more years of uninspired and uncoordinated leadership.
Senate Bill 552 will go full circle and designate the governor as superintendent when Castillo’s term expires in January 2015 — or earlier, if Castillo leaves office before then. The governor, in turn, will appoint a deputy superintendent to oversee K-12 schools. The intent is to make the governor more accountable for education policy and funding — and to turn the position of schools chief into the most sought-after and influential job in K-12 education.
The story’s not over yet: The new law could face a constitutional challenge from those who think the switch requires voter approval. But Oregon lawmakers, led by Sen. Chris Edwards, D-Eugene, deserve credit for their bipartisan support of this politically sensitive legislation. Finally, they acknowledged a problem and positioned the state for stronger school leadership.
“If Kitzhaber is truly able to streamline decisions and pass substantial reform while keeping his appointments apolitical, Oregon may see relief for a system that, as lobbyist for the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators Chuck Bennett described, is “wallowing in mediocrity.” Central control could help insulate Oregon from an interest group that is among the most powerful in the state.”
Traditionally, elected superintendent don’t lead very aggressive reforms because the majority of their support came from employee groups. However, Idaho chief Tom Luna and Oklahoma chief Jane Barresi are bucking this trend with very aggressive reforms to education employment laws and with the support of Republican controlled legislatures.
This should be a positive move for education reform and specifically for online and blended learning in Oregon.