Walton County voters are going to get the opportunity to bring change to the county's school district when they go to the polls in August.
Tuesday evening, the Walton County School Board voted 4-1 to let the voters decide whether the Superintendent of Schools should continue to be hired by popular vote, or allow the County Commission to appoint a suitable candidate. The superintendent selection issue will now appear as a referendum on the Aug. 26 primary ballot.
Prior to the School Board's meeting, a significant push went out from members of the community who want a change in the status quo. Some have children in the school system and some do not, nevertheless, many feel a change would be for the good.
Seagrove resident Jane Soloman has a child in the school system and feels the change would benefit the children.
Another local, Christi Ferry, agrees.
Those on Facebook might have come across the site Kids Before Politics in Walton County, and its website http://kidsbeforepolitics.com.
In addition, a mass email push went out to many registered voters, urging them to show up at the meeting.
In the final tally, the lone dissenting vote from the Board came from the vice chair, Gail Smith, who spent 30 years in education before retiring.
Asked to comment on Wednesday, Smith said, "The voters will decide now."
However, Smith said her nay vote came more than anything, as a plea to table the motion until workshops could be held and more information could be gathered to make an informed decision before voting.
Smith said that after discussion at the last School Board meeting she contacted the Florida School Board Association because she was concerned as to how the change might impact the budget.
Smith said the county now pays $109,000 per year to the present superintendent, but she was told that our sister counties to the south of us expect to pay $150,000-$175,000 for someone possessing the desired qualifications for the position.
"But we are a smaller county," said Smith. "Most appointed are in south Florida and are in larger counties. I was told $145,000 might be a good offer for Walton."
As for whether Walton County would be better off with an elected or appointed superintendent of schools, Smith said she does not have a strong opinion either way.
"I do have real concerns that we don't have people with stronger qualifications for that position. Anyone can run for that position and be elected. I just wanted dialog with the community of pros and cons for both," she said.
Current superintendent Carlene Anderson will retire in 2016. She said she also has concern about the lack of qualified applicants who might run for the position at her retirement. For that reason, she supports asking voters if they want it changed from an elected to appointed position.
Registered voters will now decide.