Mark Evans will go back to school so he can lead the Omaha Public Schools.
Evans, OPS's future superintendent, needs 12 more college credit hours to be eligible for a Nebraska superintendent endorsement.
Fear not, though: Evans plans to get a provisional endorsement from the Nebraska Department of Education that will let him start here on time. And after a few years of taking classes, he should have his regular endorsement.
“That one piece will require a little extra effort on my part,” Evans said Thursday. He currently is the superintendent of the Andover, Kan., Public Schools.
Nebraska requires more formal education to become a superintendent than is required by some neighboring states, such as Kansas and Colorado, said Roger Breed, Nebraska commissioner of education.
A provisional certificate allows a person to start a job while working toward the full requirement.
“It's a pretty common process for people coming into the state,” Breed said.
Frank Harwood, who was hired from a Kansas district to lead the Bellevue Public Schools in July 2011, has been leading that district on a provisional superintendent endorsement, a Bellevue spokeswoman said.
Harwood is finishing up his last class at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before getting his regular endorsement.
Provisional endorsements typically last a year or two and can be renewed, Breed said. “We're looking for progress being made,” he said.
In Kansas, where Evans has worked his entire career, superintendents need three years of experience in a state-accredited school, a graduate degree and a superintendent certificate.
Evans taught for four years before earning his master's degree in education administration in 1985. He got his superintendent certificate in 1998.
In Nebraska, however, superintendents must have:
» A specialist or doctoral degree in educational administration from a program that required at least 60 hours of graduate class work and was developed to prepare superintendents;
» At least two years of teaching experience;
» The qualifications for teaching and administrative certificates.
Evans meets all those criteria except for being about 12 hours short of an education specialist degree.
To get his regular superintendent endorsement, Evans said, he plans to start some project-based and independent study work this summer at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
What exactly he'll be doing hasn't been determined, but Evans said the classwork won't involve regular classes on campus.
Instead, he'll mostly work with UNO professors on projects he tackles during his day job.
Before Evans was hired, OPS's search consultant asked the Nebraska Department of Education to grant waivers for any applicants seeking the OPS job. Other states, most prominently New York, occasionally waive the requirement for educational experience so business leaders and others can accept educator positions.
Nebraska officials denied the consultant's request, but districts would be able to hire nontraditional leaders if a bill introduced in the Legislature passes.
Legislative Bill 121 would let the State Board of Education waive the requirement that a candidate must have an administrative certificate to become a superintendent.
Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh introduced the bill with OPS in mind, he said, but not Evans' situation.
“When you look at a district like OPS, I'm not sure that the superintendent job is one that requires all the educational credentials,” said Lautenbaugh, who has two kids in OPS. “The top job might be more of a CEO, more analogous to the business world.”
Breed said the Department of Education would be concerned about tossing such education requirements after working on them for years with educators and teacher-prep institutions.
The department's take might be different, he said, if there were a shortage of educators or a lack of quality candidates.
“Neither of those first two criteria exist,” Breed said.
Pending successful contract negotiations, Evans will succeed interim OPS Superintendent Virginia Moon.
Board Vice President Marian Fey said the contract is expected to come before the board for a vote at its meeting Wednesday evening.
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