The Utah School Superintendents Association, by a 30-7 vote, withdrew from the Education Coordinating Council Monday, following the lead of the Utah School Boards Association.
Four superintendents who were not present at Monday's meeting will be polled but could not change the result of the vote.The loss of the two major organizations leaves the council seriously weakened. However, spokesmen for state and local school boards said they will keep the doors open for further discussion of areas of disagreement that have created the schism.
Superintendent Rich Kendell of Davis District said the council "can't be effective in any way without the local boards and superintendents." He urged that avenues be explored to try to mend rifts that have surfaced in the past month between state and local education groups.
State Superintendent James R. Moss himself made the motion for the local superintendents to withdraw. He said the superintendents should be "congruent with your local boards" to prevent further erosion of relationships among education leaders.
Moss has been personally singled out for some of the criticism emanating from the local level. Superintendent Ron McIntrye of Park City District took the local media to task for attacking Moss.
"The press has abused the debate to the point they have brought in personalities and individuals," he said. "That is not in the best interest of kids."
Moss said he believes the council, which he founded shortly after becoming state superintendent, can continue to be effective without the two local groups.
He defended the purposes and accomplishments of the council as a forum for exploring education issues and developing legislative positions.
However, Winston Gleave, spokesman for the local school boards association, said that the council has stifled the opinions of some education groups in the past and predicted that several upcoming issues could further divide the group. The council represents such diverse groups as administrators, employees, private educators and higher education representatives.
Fundamental differences regarding such issues as consolidation, how education should be funded and how the money should be divided, whether taxes should be cut and how state board members should be selected preclude taking a single stand, Gleave said.
Legislators are unreasonable to expect public education to speak with one voice, as higher education does, he said.
"We're not the same kind of cat." Higher education does not have to deal with employee unions and the needs and perceptions of 40 local districts, he said.
Gleave said the school boards association is not bent on closing off discussions with other education entities, but will select other avenues of communication.