TCTA stood in vocal opposition to proposed rules that would allow school districts to hire uncertified superintendents without a principal certificate or any public education experience, testifying at the Oct. 16, 2015, State Board for Educator Certification meeting that the proposed rule was “a bridge too far.”

State law requires that a candidate for superintendent certification must be able to substitute management training or experience for part of the educational experience required for certification.  However, current SBEC rules don’t allow that option, instead requiring that a candidate for superintendent certification must:

1.      Satisfactorily complete the relevant certification exam(s);

2.      Successfully complete an SBEC-approved preparation program and be recommended for certification by that program;

3.      Hold, at a minimum, a master’s degree; and

4.      Hold, at a minimum, a principal certificate or the equivalent.

Accordingly, TEA convened a stakeholder meeting of superintendents, teachers, school board members and educator preparation program representatives to inform the development of rule revisions to meet the requirements of state law. TCTA’s Charlotte Clifton and Shelby Patrick both participated on the stakeholder committee. The committee discussed how management training/experience could be substituted for part of the current requirements in order to comply with the new statute. One option presented was to substitute the management training/experience for the principal certificate, since the current rule referred to “or the equivalent.”

The committee discussed the value of a superintendent candidate having served as a teacher and principal, but because of the new law devised criteria that would require at least three years of managerial experience in a public K-12 setting (including supervisory or appraisal duties) that included district-level planning and coordination of programs, activities or initiatives, and involved either the creation or maintenance of a budget. TEA approval would be required.

TEA staff subsequently presented this proposal to SBEC at its March 2015 meeting. Upon the request of a board member,  TEA held an additional stakeholder meeting to incorporate more business representatives. The recommendations of the second stakeholder meeting were to not limit managerial training/experience to the public K-12 setting, and to allow school districts, not TEA, to make the determination about whether the managerial training/experience would suffice, with a requirement that the district post public notice of how the candidate met the current district needs.

Both proposals still required candidates to successfully complete an SBEC-approved preparation program, be recommended for certification by that program, and pass the relevant certification exam.

TEA staff presented both proposals in draft rule form to SBEC at its Aug. 7, 2015, meeting. The board noted that the recommendation from the first stakeholder group would be initiated by a candidate, while the recommendation from the second stakeholder group would be initiated by a school district. Accordingly, rather than viewing the two recommendations as either/or, the board decided they could both be adopted. However, in doing so, the board removed the second stakeholder recommendation that the hiring district must publicly post the reasons the candidate meets the school district’s needs. The board voted to initially approve the rule revisions, with TCTA’s Suzanne Garcia McCall and another board member voting against the proposal.

SBEC posted the proposed rule for public comment and TCTA submitted comments, asserting that the second stakeholder group’s recommendation violated the law in several ways, including by providing that a school district could hire an uncertified superintendent without receiving a waiver from the commissioner of education. TCTA also objected to the elimination of the original language in the second stakeholder recommendation that would have required the district to publicly post the reasons that the candidate met the district’s needs. TCTA asserted that such a provision was the minimum needed in order to ensure accountability and transparency to the public. TCTA further asserted that ultimately, the approval of a candidate’s management training/experience needed to rest with the commissioner, not the school district.

TCTA also testified at the meeting, noting that the second stakeholder recommendation was a bridge too far and asking the board to reject it. The testimony asserted that the recommendation did not contain a requirement for relevant management training/experience, as required by state law, and that it failed to provide for the level of accountability and transparency needed for SBEC to carry out its statutory duty to ensure that all candidates for certification or renewal of certification demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to improve the performance of the diverse student population of this state.

Partly in response to TCTA's testimony, the board moved to adopt both the first and second stakeholder recommendations but strengthened the second stakeholder recommendation by requiring a post-baccalaureate degree instead of just a bachelor's degree, and by requiring that the school board publicly post the reasons the candidate meets the current district needs at the time the board names the candidate the lone finalist.

The second stakeholder group's recommendation was adopted 6-4, with McCall voting no.

The rule will now be forwarded to the State Board of Education, which can either accept or reject the rule, but cannot modify it. TCTA will continue to be involved in the issue and will update members with any developments.