Utah State Superintendent Finalists Announced: Backup Plan for Some?

Utah State Superintendent Finalists Announced: Backup Plan for Some? John Barge, Martin Bates, Rich Crandall, Brad Smith

State Board of Ed LogoThe Utah State Board of Education has released the list of the four finalists for the state superintendent position. You can almost hear the howls of the Utah Education Association from here.  Of the four applicants to survive to this stage, only one has ever taught in the Utah education system.

On the other hand, it’s hard not to look at the list and wonder if Utah’s educational system is just the back up plan for some of these applicants.

Earlier, UPH predicted two of the four that are on the list below.

Listed on the Utah State Board of Education site, the finalists are as follows:

  • John Barge, current Georgia state superintendent
  • Martin Bates, current Granite School District superintendent (on the Hub’s list)
  • Rich Crandall, former director of the Wyoming Department of Education
  • Brad Smith, current Ogden School District superintendent (on the Hub’s list)

Utah State Superintendent Finalists’ Bios

State School Superintendent John Barge

John Barge

In Georgia, superintendent is an elected position and Barge’s term ends this year. Instead of seeking another term, Barge made an unsuccessful run for Governor of Georgia this year, failing to get the Republican nomination.

According to his current Georgia Department of Education bio:

Dr. John Barge was born and raised in Cobb County, Georgia, graduated from Campbell High School in 1984, and attended Berry College in Rome, Georgia on academic and journalism scholarships where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1988.

John has earned three advanced degrees, a master’s degree and a specialist’s degree from the State University of West Georgia and his doctorate degree in educational leadership from the University of Georgia. In his 23 years in education, Dr. Barge has served as a high school English teacher, middle school Spanish teacher, assistant principal, and principal. He also served as the State Director of Career, Technical and Agriculture Education for the Georgia Department of Education. John has been recognized as a STAR teacher in 1996, as Georgia’s Assistant Principal of the Year in 2001, received the Berry College Alumni Association’s Distinguished Achievement Award in 2005, and received the University of West Georgia Alumni Achievement Award in 2012. John has also been one of Georgia Trend Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Georgians for two consecutive years.

Prior to becoming State School Superintendent, John served as the Director of Secondary Curriculum & Instruction with the Bartow County School System.

John and his wife Loraine, long-time Floyd County residents, have been married for 22 years. They have an 18 year-old daughter who attends public school in Floyd County.

Martin Bates

Martin Bates:

Martin Bates is the 16th superintendent in Granite District’s 106-year history and was appointed in second half of 2010, taking office on September 1 of that year.

Prior to taking the reins of Granite School District, he served as the Assistant Superintendent in the Granite District over Administrative and Legal Services. He has served as an assistant to the superintendent since 1999 and in other district administrative capacities since 1997. He has held previous school administrative positions in the Granite, Provo and Salt Lake City School Districts and taught math for two years in the Provo School District.

Additionally, according to Junior Achievement of Utah,

From the late 1980s through the mid 1990s, he worked in classrooms at the Park View Center, first as an instructional assistant and later as teacher with children with severe emotional and learning disabilities. During this time he was proud to serve our state and country in the Utah National Guard, including a six-month deployment in 1991 during Desert Storm. His extensive educational background includes multiple degrees from Brigham Young University including a Bachelor of Science in Special Education, a Juris Doctor and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Educational Leadership. He was admitted to the Utah Bar in May of 1997.

Rich Crandall

Rich Crandall:

A Blanding, Utah native, Rich Crandall comes with some amount of controversy in his past. He holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in accounting from Brigham Young University and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. He is a Certified Public Accountant and was the CFO from Crandall Corporate Dieticians.  He serves on the board of directors of ChannelNet.

Crandall is also a former member of the Arizona State Senate. Elected in 2010, he resigned in 2013 to accept a position as director of the Wyoming Department of Education amid controversy. He lost his job as Director in the midst of a Wyoming State Constitution dispute that saw the elected  superintendent of education re-assuming responsibility for education in Wyoming in May of this year. According to Wikipedia, his “current work is divided between political races in Arizona and for CN Resource, an educational nutrition company that he founded.”

Brad SmithBrad Smith:

Superintendent of Ogden School District, Smith is perhaps the candidate with the most illusive online profile. Smith was educated at the University of Utah, receiving his law degree in 1998. Starting in 2007, Smith served on the Ogden School District Board of Education prior to his appointment as superintendent in 2011.Though prior to serving on the Ogden School District Board of Education he had had no educational experience, Smith determined to be the person who could make a difference with the district was in crisis.

 “I had better be willing to put my money where my mouth is,” he recalls thinking. While he had never run a school district before or taught, let alone administered such a large enterprise, “I have a reasonably high opinion of my own abilities,” he says dryly, “and hope I am honest enough to admit if my own assessment might run ahead of those abilities.” He had qualms, he admits, but “I believed in my heart I could make a difference.”

According to City Weekly, Smith has applied to serve as a judge in the past, making the final 10 of 15 applicants before being cut. “In 2009, he resigned from his position on the 2nd District Judicial Nominating Commission, which selects judges for the 2nd District, to apply for a judgeship.”


Two lawyers, a businessman, and a teacher: it’s hard not to look at this list and wonder if Utah isn’t the first choice of at least a couple of them. After failing to win the Republican nomination for Governor in Georgia, Barge is looking to Utah to keep him in an executive position. And Crandall seems like he’s fled political messes in Arizona and Wyoming just in time for another in Utah.

Is that the best Utah can get? Applicants who look to Utah as a backup plan?

The State Board of Education will interview all candidates Thursday, October 9th at 3:30.  The interviews will be public.  In the past the State Office has live streamed the interviews as well.  Following the interviews, the Board will meet privately.  The announcement on the position is expected to come in the days following the interviews.


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