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Education advocates speak out against Lee County referendum to make school superintendent an elected position

There are over 90,000 students in the Lee County School District, which is governed by a school board and the superintendent they appoint. The School Board meetings are held at the Lee County Public Education Center on Colonial Boulevard.
Sabrina Salovitz
Headquarters of The School District of Lee County.

During the upcoming midterm election voters in Lee County are being asked whether to change the job of superintendent of The School District of Lee County from an appointed position to an elected position. It’s been an appointed position in Lee County since 1974.

Florida and Alabama are the only two states left that still allow for elected school superintendents, and here in Florida 41 of the state’s 67 public school districts are currently appointed.

The referendum was placed on the ballot for voters in Lee County after Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 497 into law at the end of the 2022 legislative session. It had been pushed by republican members of the Lee County legislative delegation and it passed despite never being read out of committee during the House session and had no accompanying Senate bill.

In response, a group of local education advocates and educators formed a political action committee called Quality Schools for the Future of Lee County to speak out against the referendum and the concept of electing school superintendents — particularly in a large district like Lee County which has 96 traditional schools, nearly 100,000 students, and a roughly $2-billion annual budget.

We spoke with three of the PAC's members to get their take on this referendum:

  • Madelon Stewart is a Board Member of the Sanibel League of Women Voters and a former teacher. The Sanibel League itself is not a member of Quality Schools for the Future of Lee County, but some of its members are.
  • Dr. Mike Martin is President of Florida Gulf Coast University.
  • Bobbie D'Alessandro was superintendent of Lee County Public Schools from 1993 to 1997 and has spent her career in K-12 education administration.

Click here for a breakdown of which school districts in Florida have elected versus appointed superintendents.

Click here for a breakdown of Florida school district grades in 2022.

Read the full ballot language:

Repealing Resolution Providing for an Appointed, Rather than an Elected, Superintendent of Schools

Currently, by resolution of the Lee County School Board, the Superintendent of Schools for the Lee County School District is an appointed, rather than an elected, position. Shall Chapter 2022‐233, Laws of Florida, which repeals the aforesaid resolution and provides that the Superintendent of Schools shall no longer be appointed by the Lee County School Board, but rather shall be elected in a partisan election by vote of qualified electors residing in Lee County for a term of 4 years, beginning with the 2024 general election, become effective?