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Oklahoma's largest districts are losing superintendents

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Brutal budget cuts, stressful financial decisions and community tensions are being blamed for a growing number of school superintendents statewide either leaving or being forced out of their districts.

The trend appears especially strong among larger districts. Altus, Ardmore, Duncan, Weatherford and Oklahoma City are five of the larger districts that have recently began searching for a new superintendent. Altus recently filled its vacancy.

``Being a superintendent is a hard job,'' said Valerie Roberts, spokeswoman for Altus Public Schools. ``And it's even harder now given the current financial climate across the state. No one wants the job.

``Instead of making positive changes to ensure student academic achievement, they are forced to come in and make major budget cuts. That's tough.''

Duncan Schools Superintendent Donnie Snider, 51, is retiring at the end of this school year to begin a new career as a college professor in Texas.

``The budget cuts have been brutal,'' Snider said. ``And a lot of superintendents are getting blamed.

``It's kind of hard for local citizens to vent on the state Legislature, so they focus their frustrations on the first people they see _ school board members and superintendents. These are the people they see downtown at the grocery stores or at church.

``And nobody wants to be a whipping boy.''

At Weatherford, James Gray is interim superintendent after Superintendent Grant Frankenberg accepted a buyout package following nearly two years of controversy about his budget decisions.

Weatherford school board member Randy Hacker says there are already 40 applicants for the job and that the school will have no trouble finding a quality superintendent.

In Oklahoma City, the district has used private donations to hire a firm to conduct a national superintendent search.

In Ardmore, school board President Bill Owen said there are 24 applicants to replace Superintendent Derrith Welch, who recently announced his resignation.

Owen called the number of applicants a positive sign.

But Snider questions whether there are enough qualified applicants.

``The numbers may be there, but is the quality?'' Snider asked. ``You may have 30 applicants, but how many would be considered quality?

``You may have a lot of assistant principals who want to make the jump all the way to superintendent. You may have very few who have actually worked as an assistant superintendent or even superintendent.''
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