BAY COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) – The Bay County Chamber of Commerce wants to open conversations about hiring a school superintendent instead of electing one, and they succeeded.

But there is also a lot of confusion about why it is an issue and how it would work. It started with a new study by the U.S. Air Force.

Since 2018, the U.S. Air Force has been ranking their bases on community attributes. The SAF MRR Support of Military Families ranks Air Force bases all over the world. The latest ranking has Tyndall AFB at number 156 out of 157 total bases. One of the biggest factors is the public education system.

Bay District Schools ranks in the bottom third.

“There are some big empirical data that’s out there on how Bay County and the surrounding areas for Tyndall are doing and it’s not a pretty picture,” Bay County Chamber Military Affairs Chair Chris Moore said.

Info from SAF MRR

The areas of concern are student learning rates, suspension rates, and the chronic absentee rate. Tyndall released this statement which said, in part, airmen reported this data to understand the opportunities for their families, to allow for sustained careers in service, or to separate from the military. Below is the full statement.

“Airmen have reported the educational opportunities for their children and and the ability of their spouse Airmen have reported the educational opportunities for their children and and the ability of their spouse to sustain careers influence their continued service decisions – whether to continue their military career or separate. To address these concerns, and the associated retention effects they have, the Department of the Air Force collaborated with policy professionals and subject matter experts to develop quantitative criteria and analytic frameworks to assess states’ support of military families with focus on licensure portability and pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade public education. That information is collated into the annual Support for Military Families assessment”

SCOTT D. JOHNSON, Tyndall Public Affairs

Moore and his team are researching how to improve those numbers, and hiring a superintendent has become one of the talking points.

“It’s interesting that this is coming up again,” Superintendent Bill Husfelt said. “It has come up before elected vs appointed. The citizens, I don’t think want to give up the right to elect a superintendent.” 

If they did, it would be up to school board members to interview applicants and then hire a superintendent.

The past vote happened in 1992. Over 27,000 residents voted no for an appointed superintendent.

“Charter government, superintendent were all there,” Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen said. “One was close, the other not so close. But again the voters make those decisions.”

If school board members believe voters should decide if they want to keep electing their superintendent or allow them to hire one, there is a  specific process.

“The school board members themselves would have to act on it then it will go to the county commission,” Andersen said. “They would ensure we have access to election equipment, whether they would want to put it on a special election. All that takes time.”

“We look at what is going on around us,” Husfelt said. ‘And do some education and do some research on it. I think people would be astounded to find out that an appointed superintendent doesn’t stay very long.” 

The Bay County Chamber is not taking a stance on the issue. Chamber leaders said they just want to start the discussion. 

The first opportunity to get the superintendent question on a scheduled ballot would be the 2022 primary in august. A special election could happen sooner but would cost the school district approximately $500,000.

Here is the link to the SAF MRR which is the study we reference.