Six States Pick Schools Chiefs
By Tiffany Danitz, Staff Writer
The results may not be in for the presidential contenders, whose campaigns focused on education issues, but voters in six states know the superintendents who will be running their schools.
Charlie Crist beat George Sheldon in Florida, Suellen Reed beat Gerald McCullum in Indiana, Linda McCulloch beat Elaine Sollie Herman in Montana, Michael Ward beat Michael Barrick in North Carolina, Wayne Sanstead beat Ray Holmberg in North Dakota and Terry Bergeson ran unopposed in Washington.
The races in Florida and North Carolina were extremely close. National Association of School Boards of Education (NASBE) spokesman, David Griffith, said the results were a reflection of what was happening in national, state and local contests.
"The elections all over the country at every level from the presidency on down, in every region, were incredibly close. I think that the superintendent races were a reflection of that more than a question about the merit of the winners," he said.
In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush's handpicked candidate, Republican Charlie Crist defeated Democrat George Sheldon. Bush campaigned for Crist to secure survival of his "A Plus" plan for Florida's schools. Sheldon was critical of the Governor's education plan, especially Bush's first-in-the-nation, statewide voucher program. In two years, the schools chief position will become an appointed slot in Florida.
In another tight race, North Carolina Democrat Michael Ward kept his post, sustaining continuity for the state's reforms in the face of Gov. Jim Hunt's impending departure from office. His rival, Republican Michael Barrick, a Caldwell County school board member and businessman, was forced to concede the race.
"North Carolina and Florida have implemented specific reforms and it is important that they have state superintendents who are familiar with and support those reforms," Griffith said.
Indiana's Republican Schools Superintendent, incumbent Suellen Reed, was able to stave off the growing anti-testing sentiment that her opponent Democrat Gerald McCullum used against her. Reed had the support of the teachers' unions and the Democratic Governor Frank O'Bannon.
In fact, a number of incumbents won, including Ward, Reed and Wayne Sanstead in North Dakota.
NASBE's Griffith said: "Clearly voters are pleased with the way their state education systems are running and have decided to endorse continued leadership and reforms."
In other races, Montana handily elected Democrat Linda McCulloch to replace Democrat Nancy Keenan who left to run for Congress but lost. And Terry Bergeson had already sewn up Washington's superintendent's race during the primary so she ran unopposed.