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Iowa Eyes Non-Educators for Superintendent Positions

Posted at: 01/18/2013 5:28 PM
Updated at: 01/18/2013 6:16 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- Following Governor Terry Branstad's proposed changes to Iowa's education system, some top education officials are offering up some ideas of their own.

The state's Board of Educational Examiners is considering changing a rule that requires candidates for superintendent positions to have previous educational experience, which could open the door for corporate leaders and possibly even military officials to take those roles.

Under the current Iowa law, only licensed educators may be considered for superintendent positions.

But the proposed change would allow anyone with five years of high-level leadership experience with an organization to become eligible for those positions.

It's a move educators say could end up doing more harm than good.

"Schools first and foremost are about teaching and learning,” said Steve Bass, superintendent of the Osage Community School District. “And just because you lead an organization does not mean you would make an acceptable administrator."

Critics say education presents a unique set of obstacles that someone from another industry would be unqualified to handle.

"We talk about assessment, we talk about curriculum, we talk about instruction, and no one outside the field would understand all the areas encompassed within those,” Bass said.

The discussion actually comes as a bit of a surprise for some administrators who say opening the state's applicant pool is simply unnecessary.

"We have some districts that are closing or merging,” said Neil Wubben who serves on the Osage Community School Board. “And so that's freeing up administrators, and some good administrators. So again, it's not a matter of being short on candidates."

While proponents argue that business leaders and others would be well qualified to handle the staffing and budgetary aspects of the job, critics say it's a perspective limited by inexperience.

"Everyone in the United States thinks they understand education because we've all been through the system, but until you've sat in an administrator's chair, you have no idea,” Bass said.

The proposed change would require anyone chosen to fill those positions to undergo three years of professional training, but critics of the idea say that's just addressing the problem after the fact.