MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Matt Massey takes on Ronnie Blair in the July 15 runoff for Madison County Superintendent of Education. With that vote comes politicking.
An anonymous letter circulating makes claims that one of the candidates has promised to make policy decisions in exchange for support of a political action committee. We won’t reveal the full text or the candidate it concerns. After all, the letter is anonymous, and we haven’t been able to validate its claims.
What we have validated – both candidates have taken PAC money.
We spoke with Mary Jane Caylor about the influx of money in a race for a superintendent’s position. She was appointed as superintendent for Huntsville City Schools, but she campaigned for her position as a State School Board member.
She has concerns about the implications of electing a superintendent, saying, “Well, there are special interests. Any time that there’s an individual or group that wants to support an individual for an office, [they have] their own agenda and their own hopes that the superintendent or elected official, whoever he or she may be, will do the things that are in their interest.”
She knows the pressure of these checks from PACs. “In meetings that you would go to and in endorsements that you were seeking, there were often times that there were conditions put in front of me, that if I would do x, y, z and I could assure them that certain things would happen, that they would endorse me,” Caylor said.
It all raises the question: should we keep electing superintendents when it draws in so many outside interests?
Caylor has other problems with the process, saying, “Because you’re a good campaigner and you can get elected, doesn’t mean you can run a school system.”
Plus, she says all the campaigning that goes into getting votes takes away time from duties of the job itself.
“This is the most critical for a school system for a superintendent and particularly any leadership position. You’ve got staffing. You’ve got the management of the schools. You have facilities.”
Plus, if candidates have to run for election, you’ll have a hard time recruiting them from anywhere else, and you’ll only get a few to choose from.
“I think you need to throw the net just as wide as you can,” explains Caylor, “And then as an elected or an appointed board, you have the opportunity to narrow that down doing some comparison of those individuals. Qualifications, responsibilities, track record, and all those things. And you don’t have that in an elected superintendent.”
The voters will decide between Ronnie Blair and Matt Massey on July 15, but the process doesn’t win over a lot of people who have served in education leadership.
WHNT News 19 is investigating the claims and origins of the letter. We also have in-depth interviews scheduled with the candidates on issues of the office later this week.