Education

Ex-local superintendent running for Congress

The former superintendent of a local school district is running for Congress.

Larry DiChiara, who led Phenix City Schools for 9½ years before the board dismissed him in 2013 without a public explanation, has announced his candidacy for Alabama's U.S. House District 3 seat. He is challenging Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, for the Republican nomination in the March 1 primary election.

In a video posted Thursday on his personal Facebook page, DiChiara listed three reasons for his decision:

"I love my country and my family, and I'm disturbed by what I see happening."

"Courageous servant leadership and statesmanship are in short supply. Therefore, leaders need to answer the call. Otherwise, who will?"

"I've always been a big believer that God has a plan for everything and everybody. This has been placed on my heart for some time now. Therefore, it requires that I give it serious consideration. I've prayed a lot, and I've received an overwhelming response of encouragement from friends, family, colleagues and normal, everyday citizens. Everyone believes that it's time for a change. There's great frustration and great hardship many are experiencing."

DiChiara described himself as a "conservative, God-fearing Republican" but didn't mention any policy viewpoints. In fact, he said, "The thing that's been the most encouraging is that people very seldom ask me for my position on issues. Why? Because what they yearn the most is a person who has a proven record of leadership, who's honest and has integrity and will treat people fairly and with respect."

The lone criticism of his opponent he voiced was that Rogers' tenure has been "too long."

DiChiara said, "The only question that needs to be answered is, are we better off today than when he was elected 14 years ago? The answer is an obvious no. If elected, I pledge to try and do something about that and will be the leader that we all can be proud of. At the end of the day, we all just want someone to fight the good fight and put our values and Americans first. I plan to do just that."

The Ledger-Enquirer contacted Rogers' office for a response. In an email from Shea Miller, his press secretary, Rogers said, "I am deeply honored to serve as the Representative in Congress for the Third District of Alabama. I look forward to again asking for the continued trust and support of the fine citizens of East Alabama.

"It is too early for petty politics, Washington already has enough of that. I will continue to fight for our conservative values against the intrusive liberal policies of Barack Obama and his allies Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. My commitment to the people of East Alabama is unwavering and helping them by creating jobs, fighting wasteful spending, protecting national security, defunding Planned Parenthood and ending Obamacare are at the top of my list."

DiChiara was named Alabama Superintendent of the Year in 2011. Two years later, the seven-member Phenix City Board of Education unanimously voted in a called meeting to place him on administrative leave and to seek a buyout of the 4½ years left on his contract.

In 2014, after DiChiara sued for breach of contract, he settled with the board for $587,412 to end the 11-month controversy.

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow him on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.

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