Ohio’s top public schools official to retire at year’s end

Richard Ross, Sept. 15, 2015
Ohio Superintendent of Schools Richard Ross. He defended the Youngstown Plan before the state Board of Education on Sept. 15, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio’s public schools superintendent said Friday he plans to retire at the end of the year, a move that had been delayed after a summer flap involving charter-school sponsor evaluations.

Richard Ross, 65, has served as state superintendent since March 2013. He was an education adviser to Republican Gov. John Kasich beginning in 2011, after previously serving as superintendent of Reynoldsburg schools in suburban Columbus.

Ross announced in a statement Friday that he will step down Dec. 31.

“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,” he said. “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.”

The announcement comes as the state Education Department’s oversight of charter schools has recently come under fire.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education restricted the initial flow of a $71 million charter school grant, pending further assurances that Ohio can responsibly oversee the money amid an investigation into the state’s former school choice director.

School Choice Director David Hansen resigned in July after he acknowledged that he omitted certain failing grades of online and dropout-recovery schools from evaluations of charter school sponsors. The reviews affect how the sponsors’ performance is reported to the public and plays a role in determining their state aid. Hansen said he didn’t want to “mask” successes elsewhere.

The state responded by pulling affected evaluations and referring documentation involving Hansen’s actions to the state auditor and inspector general. Hansen is the husband of Kasich’s presidential campaign manager.

Ross said he had being talking about retiring months ago. But, he said, he didn’t think it was appropriate to do this summer given the evaluation problems.

“We had things we needed to deal with and it just wasn’t the right time,” Ross told The Associated Press in an interview.

Since then, Ross said an advisory committee is re-working the process for evaluating charter school sponsors, the department has implemented some oversight changes and state lawmakers have passed a bill overhauling the state’s charter-school system with new performance, accountability and reporting requirements.

“I think that we are certainly in a better place,” he said.

Ross said the restrictions on the federal charter school grant are appropriate and the state will work with federal officials to comply.

“Our goal is – and the goal always has been – to have a high quality school for every youngster in this state, whether that’s a traditional school or a community school,” he said.

In a written statement, Kasich called Ross “a true champion for students.”

“Many of the initiatives he helped us pursue hold great promise for the future of our state, including the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, transforming the Cleveland school system and changing the way we help struggling schools,” the governor said.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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