Claude Hartley of Tupelo, a member of the Mississippi Board of Education, last week completed the process of naming Tom Burnham to replace Hank Bounds as the new state superintendent. Hartley, who has been involved in three searches for state superintendents during his tenure on the board, answered these questions from Bobby Harrison of the Daily Journal’s Capital Bureau:
Q: Was this a difficult search process?
A: I don’t know if I would term it as difficult. We contracted with the Mississippi School Boards Association to handle the process. We had some good applicants The final four were all strong candidates. I am pleased with the results.
Q: With a new superintendent in place, what is on the agenda for the state Board of Education?
A: Of course, no one knows how long the slowdown in tax collections will continue. That is a worry not only for the state Board, but for local boards and superintendents. The tax revenue situation puts pressure on everyone. In addition to the budget, me must deal with putting in place polices that will govern the Children First Act that the Legislature passed this past session. The Children First Act allows the state Board to have more input on the management of low-performing districts.
Of course, our goal with this – as always – is to improve teaching and learning in these low performing districts. That is critical.
Q: What role will Burnham play in this?
A: Dr. Burnham plays a major part. He is our state educational leaders as superintendent. His input is most important. In the long term, he will implement the policies developed by the board. His varied experiences and background are what I think we need to deal with the problems and opportunities facing K-12 education. Dr. Burnham is a very effective manager.
Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal