THE TOLEDO BLADE
BY JIM PROVANCE
COLUMBUS — Ohio Schools Superintendent Richard A. Ross will step down as state education chief at the end of the year, months after calls for his resignation following revelations that his department had doctored statistics for some on-line charter schools.
Just this week the U.S. Department of Education had placed on hold $71 million in grants for Ohio’s charter schools after it faced criticism from Democrats for awarding the money in the face of national criticism of the state’s lax oversight of the schools.
“Coming out of retirement four years ago to advocate on behalf of the boys and girls in our classrooms has been the most rewarding experience in my career,” Mr. Ross said in a press release issued today. “I enjoyed putting to use my 40 years of experience to strengthen education in our state, and I am proud of the progress we’ve made in pursuing new reforms that can position our schools for better academic success.”
He said it had been a “privilege” to be involved in the state’s collaboration with Cleveland City Schools to overhaul the urban schools’ structure, as well as the state’s recent legislative takeover of Youngstown schools over the protests of many in that community.
He faced scathing criticism from some members of the State Board of Education for his role in the latter, working behind closed doors with lawmakers on the takeover legislation even as the board was working on its own parallel track to address Youngstown’s failings.
A minority on the board has since advocated for an outside investigation of the charter school and Youngstown issues but has been blocked by the majority.
The board will search for Mr. Ross’ replacement, but the decision will largely lie with Mr. Kasich, who handpicked Mr. Ross as his education adviser before making him state superintendent in March 2013.
Earlier this year, David Hansen, the state’s school choice chief under Mr. Ross, admitted that he intentionally withheld the failing scores of on-line charter schools from a handful of evaluations of their sponsors. Mr. Hansen said he believed the failing scores would detract from other charter school successes.
Mr. Hansen — husband of Beth Hansen, Mr. Kasich’s former chief of staff and current presidential campaign manager — resigned. Mr. Ross insisted he did not know what Mr. Hansen was doing, and e-mails later released at the request of media organizations across the state included nothing that countered that statement.
Mr. Kasich recently signed into law House Bill 2 to reform abuses of the process by some charter schools and their sponsors. The law is designed to prevent failing charter schools from switching sponsors at the last minute to avoid being shut down and to make it clear that furniture, equipment, textbooks, and other items bought with taxpayer dollars belong to the school and not to its sponsor.
“Dr. Ross’ history of protecting even the worst-performing charter schools had school reform leaders worried that he would try to undercut these hard-fought, bipartisan reforms,’’ said Sandy Theis, executive director of the liberal advocacy group Progress Ohio.
Mr. Ross had previously retired as superintendent of the Reynoldsburg School District in suburban Columbus. and also served as superintendent at Bryan City Schools and Ottawa-Glandorf Local Schools.