JACKSON – Former Oxford Superintendent of Education John Jordan will head the state Department of Education on an interim basis starting Monday.
An Attorney General’s opinion, issued Thursday morning, forced the state Board of Education to act quickly later in the day to replace its original choice for interim state superintendent with Jordan.
The Attorney General ruled that the Board’s original choice, Judy Rhodes, a longtime Department of Education employee, was not qualified for the post because state law requires the state superintendent have at least a master’s degree.
Bill Jones of Petal, board chair, said Jordan will begin his tenure at the department Monday. He will replace outgoing state Superintendent Hank Bounds, who recently was named state commissioner of higher education.
Jones said Jordan will not be a candidate for the permanent post.
Jones also admitted that the board made a mistake by not determining before hiring Rhodes whether an interim appointment was required to have the same qualifications as the permanent superintendent.
But Jones also said that based on experience no one would have been more qualified as an interim than Rhodes.
“She was very gracious about it,” Jones said. “…Judy is still a qualified person and would have done as fine a job as just about anybody on the face of the earth.”
Rhodes is currently serving as executive director of the 8,500-member Mississippi Professional Educators. She retired from the state Department of Education in 2005 as director of education accountability.
“No question we lost an outstanding individual; however, we have selected a person who also will do an outstanding job,” said board member Claude Hartley of Tupelo.
Jordan currently is serving as an education consultant. He was a finalist for the state superintendent’s post in the past and also has served as a deputy state superintendent. He was head of the Oxford School District at the time he was a finalist for the state post.
An AG’s ruling is not considered law, but protects government officials who follow it from possible lawsuits.
The opinion was released Thursday morning while the nine-member Board of Education was in Jackson for its regular monthly meeting.
Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal