Clay County residents may vote on appointing school superintendent

Published On: Mar 11 2014 02:10:58 PM EDT
Updated On: Mar 11 2014 06:40:00 PM EDT

VIDEO: The group Children over Politics wants some additions on the November ballot.

ORANGE PARK, Fla. -

Clay County voters will likely see two proposed charter amendments on the November ballot that would change how the school superintendent is selected.

One amendment proposed by a group called Children Over Politics would change the superintendent of schools to a nonpartisan elected position and a second would change it to an appointed position with minimum qualifications.

"It's an over $100,000-a-year job, and the only qualification is that you need to live in that county. You don't even need a high-school degree to do it," said Virginia Collins, chairperson of Children Over Politics.

The group says the amendments were submitted to the supervisor of elections office last week and must now collect 9,700 signatures from registered votes to get the proposal on the General Election ballot.

The group collected signatures Tuesday outside Orange Park Town Hall, where voters turned out for a special election for Seat 2 of Town Council.

Current Superintendent Charlie Van Zant has had a contentious relationship with the Clay County School Board since his election in 2012.  Most recently, the Board asked the state attorney and state Ethics Commission to investigate after Van Zant approved using county funds on a American history conference called "Dare To Think" that some in the community considered a partisan political event.

“Our children deserve more than the constant political games,” said Collins. “This is an opportunity for the citizens of Clay County to exercise local control and affect a positive change on our local government.”

The group noted that there are currently no minimum job qualifications for school superintendents in Florida counties. They add that of 15,000 school districts in the United States only 150 elect their superintendents.

"For example, in St Johns County, it's been an appointed position since 1990," Collins said. "They are the No. 1 county (in the state) for education, and I think Clay County could do that."

News4Jax asked Van Zant for his opinion on the group's proposals but he has not returned the call.

Current school board member Tina Bullock who is running for reelection this year is OK with the position being elected, but would like to see required qualifications.

"It makes it very difficult for him to do that job if he doesn't have that," Bullock said. "Fortunately Mr. Van Zant served on the School Board for, I think 12 years, so he did get some of that background during that time."

For more information on the proposed charter amendments, visit ChildrenOverPolitics.com.

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