NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Gov. Bill Haslam says he was disappointed to hear of a petition signed by nearly half of the states' school superintendents that raised serious concerns about Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.

The Republican governor in a letter to superintendents released Tuesday stood by Huffman and the initiatives he has championed, saying that the commissioner has brought a ``new perspective and dynamic energy to education reform in Tennessee.''

The petition originated with Dan Lawson, director of the Tullahoma City Schools, alleges that Huffman's office ``has no interest in a dialogue'' with local officials and the superintendents' efforts to improve their schools are being thwarted by low teacher morale because of policy changes on the state level.

Haslam called for ``a fresh approach to communication'' between the school districts and state education officials.