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Will state cut school chief?

A proposal to do away with nearly all of the state’s 58 county school superintendents is, somewhat predictably, not too popular with Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Terry McAteer.

McAteer said the California Performance Review’s call to replace the state’s appointed and elected school superintendents with 11 regional superintendents would significantly harm each of the 10 school districts he oversees, and probably cost them more money for services.

“I believe schools are successful when they have as much local control as possible,” McAteer said.



The California Performance Review, created by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to determine how best to streamline the state’s government operations, is recommending folding Nevada County’s educational services into a “Capital” region that includes nine other counties.

“While the size and population of California may require some intermediate level linking the 1,000-plus local school districts with the California Department of Education, a regional – rather than a county – system will better serve state citizens at a lower cost,” the report states.




The California Department of Education is responsible for setting academic and fiscal policy for the state’s schools. The county superintendent’s office provides special education services for K-8 students, is the arbiter of truancy hearings and approves each school district’s budget, as well as providing consulting services for each of the county’s school districts.

McAteer bristled at the notion of ceding control to a regional entity based miles away from Nevada County.

“What fits for Sacramento County doesn’t necessarily fit for Nevada County,” he said.

Eliminating McAteer’s office requires a vote of the people and a modification of the state constitution.

The Common School Act of 1852 created the office of county superintendent. Four years later, the office was made an elective one, though an amendment in 1976 allowed for the option of appointing a superintendent.

The move to replace California’s 58 superintendents with 11 regional ones could end up saving the state $18 million annually, according to the performance report.

But it could also end up costing districts even more out of their already-tight pocketbooks.

“We wouldn’t be able to absorb what they do without additional cost,” said Superintendent Maggie Deetz of the Nevada Joint Union High School District. “If you’re doing it to decrease salaries, that’s not possible. We’re already cutting back. How can we take on more?”

In addition to traditional services such as special education for the elementary districts and fiscal oversight, the county superintendent’s office is in charge of Nevada County’s public-access television station and runs The Imaginarium, a science program offered to K-12 students.

If Schwarzenegger wants to cut education costs, McAteer said, he should look in his own house. California has an elected state superintendent of public instruction, Jack O’Connell, and an education secretary, a position created less than 10 years ago to serve as the governor’s appointee on education issues.

Former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan serves as Schwarzenegger’s point person on education.

“I don’t know what (Riordan) does,” said McAteer, whose office is overseen by O’Connell. “We don’t need duplicate leaders.”

Should the state do away with county school superintendents?

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