LINCOLN — Despite their many successes, neither retiring astronaut Clayton Anderson nor entrepreneur Willy Theisen could qualify to run a Nebraska school district.

Neither holds a state administrative certificate, let alone a school superintendent endorsement, as required by law.

A couple of Omaha senators want to look at changing those limitations.

Omaha State Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh introduced Legislative Bill 121, under which the State Board of Education could waive the administrative certificate requirement for a school superintendent.

Sen. Ernie Chambers introduced LB 539, under which the state could not require superintendents, principals and other school administrators to have teaching experience.

The Education Committee held a hearing on Lautenbaugh's bill Monday. A hearing on Chambers' bill will be held later.

Lautenbaugh said his bill was not related to the qualifications of the incoming Omaha Public Schools superintendent.

Mark Evans, the OPS superintendent choice, can qualify for an administrative certificate but not for a superintendent endorsement. He does not have the required education specialist or doctoral degree but can get a provisional endorsement while finishing the last 12 college credit hours that he needs.

Lautenbaugh said he began exploring the waiver idea last year as a way to open up the search for an OPS superintendent.

His thought was, if the district was not getting good candidates with an education background, it might be worth looking at people experienced in running large corporations.

But he told the Education Committee that the state already may have enough flexibility. The Nebraska Department of Education can grant provisional administrative certificates and provisional endorsements.

“I don't come to you today with a completely hatched notion,” Lautenbaugh said. “I'm not 100 percent convinced there's a need for this bill.”

The education officials who testified about the bill said there is no need at all for it.

Brian Halstead, general counsel for the Education Department, said about 1,400 people hold administrative certificates with superintendent endorsements in Nebraska now.

“We don't have a supply problem of qualified people to be a superintendent in this state,” Halstead said.

The certification program ensures that people come from the world they are going to be overseeing, he said.

Jay Sears, a lobbyist for the Nebraska State Education Association, said administrators need a background in teaching to be effective in making decisions about children's education.

“CEOs from corporate America do not have the silver bullet,” he said.

To get a superintendent endorsement, people 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.

Contact the writer: 402-473-9583,

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