Utah State Board of Education names interim superintendent

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – The Utah State Board of Education appointed an interim superintendent, Thursday evening.  
 
Officials decided a woman named Sydnee Dickson will fill the vacancy Brad Smith left.  Dickson has been filling in for Smith ever since January, when he took a medical leave of absence. 
 
Smith resigned Wednesday, after serving a 16 month-long leadership period.  In a letter of resignation, he wrote, “I have regrettably come to the conclusion that I am no longer able to make a positive contribution as state superintendent.” 
 
Amid obvious health issues and weeks of sick leave, people are left speculating over why Smith walked away.
 
“We do wish the superintendent the best in his health,” said Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, President of the Utah Education Association. 
 
School board members would not comment on Smith’s health and its impact on his superintendency but said his recent resignation did not surprise them.
 
“There were a number of internal communications and other things that had gone back and forth,” said Dave Thomas, First Vice Chair of the board. 
 
Now, for the fourth time in five years, board members have the responsibility of appointing a new superintendent. 
 
“They’re taking this as a very serious obligation,” Thomas said. 
 
This time around, officials say a total restructuration of the board could be beneficial as well.
 
“[We could] have specific individuals who have more specific kinds of knowledge over various areas, whether it be finances or academics,” Thomas said. 
 
Gallagher-Fishbaugh says the new superintendent should have a background in education.
 
“Someone who’s been in the trenches,” she clarified. 
 
Gallagher-Fishbaugh represents 18,000 Utah educators who she says are struggling.
 
“There have been many, many changes.  There’s been an overhaul of staff at the State Office of Education, and we’ve lost some very key people,” she told Good 4 Utah’s Ali Monsen. 
 
She says a lack of effort to include educators in decision-making at several levels is causing a teacher shortage across the state. 
 
“[Teachers] need to have a voice, and they need to feel valued and respected, and they need to have a little bit of autonomy,” she said. 
 
With that in mind, board members say they will also appoint someone who they see sticking around awhile.
 
In the meantime, Interim Superintendent Dickson will likely stay at least through the 2016 legislative session.  Officials say they will revisit the idea of appointing a permanent superintendent later this year.

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