published Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Bradley commission divided on elected school chiefs bill

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Bradley County commissioners were asked Tuesday to show support for state legislation that would, if passed in Nashville, give local governments the option of elected school superintendents.

For now, all superintendents in Tennessee are appointed by school boards.

But local commissioners were almost evenly divided, with seven voting to tell state legislators they support the bill, six voting no and two absent. It takes eight votes for the Bradley County Commission to approve a resolution.

"All this does is bring it to a local level," said Commissioner Jeff Yarber, urging support.

Yarber said while Bradley County has had great success with its school superintendents, that might not be the case elsewhere. Supporting the state bill, he said, is not a criticism of Bradley's current school superintendent.

The bill, now pending in a legislative committee in Nashville, would allow locally elected superintendents if the local government approved and then voters approved it in a referendum, Yarber said.

Both the city and county school boards here are on record opposing elected superintendents.

Commissioner Robert Rominger said, "I don't think we need to get politics into this."

Rominger said accountability for school superintendents is the responsibility of the elected school boards.

"This is a state legislative question," Commissioner Bill Winters said. "This starts to chip away at what has been very good."

On another issue, the Bradley County Commission did agree on a message to state legislators. Members were unanimous Tuesday in support of pending state legislation to delay the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act.

That act requires that "each county shall use a precinct-based optical scanner voting system." The Tennessee General Assembly delayed implementation in 2010 until 2012. New bills would delay implementation until the state can afford to fund the bill.

The commission's resolution notes Bradley County has made substantial investments in a computer voting system and has no history of voter fraud. But the switch would put another $60,000 on Bradley taxpayers by mandating the purchase of paper ballots, too, the local resolution says.

Contact Randall Higgins at rhiggins@timesfreepress.com or 423-314-1029.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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