Next Superintendent Should Have State's Students At Heart

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by Richard K. Meszar, Ed.D., Payson

Now that Lisa Graham Keegan has suddenly, but not unexpectedly, resigned the position we taxpayers voted her into until the year 2002, now might be a good time to examine the merits of her previous job.

Too many superintendents of public instruction attempt to use the position as a political stepping stone rather than as a legitimate position from which to enact needed change and improvement in our Arizona educational system.

While decision makers ponder who should succeed Mrs. Keegan, the following are some suggestions to improve her former office and to improve education in Arizona without costing taxpayers a lot of money.

1. Hire a commissioner of education who has the background, commitment and knowledge about the education of young people (that is needed). The State Board of Education could hire someone such as retiring Gilbert Superintendent Dr. Walter Dilecki to a three-year performance-based contract to form a coalition of teachers, parents, taxpayers, and legislators to support education for all of our students.

2. Consolidate school districts. There are far too many small, stand-alone elementary and/or union high school districts in Arizona to be economically and academically sound.

3. Pay school board members. We need to attract diverse people to school boards to represent our diverse student population. Pay school board members a small stipend per month to help defray their expenses while serving the public.

4. Eliminate county school superintendents. Why do we still have 15 county school superintendents in Arizona? No one seems to know the answer to this question.

5. Common sense student testing. Encourage all students to excel and to do their best in school, but realize that some students either can't or won't perform at current student testing levels. Offer a two-tiered diploma for those meeting high standards AIMS testing and a "regular" diploma for those not meeting more rigorous standards.

We can only hope that our next superintendent of public instruction has the interests of the students in Arizona at heart as opposed to the interests of their own political careers.

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