Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner has announced his resignation following a report that identified his apparent conflict of interest related to proposed state legislation last year, and improper use of public resources. Heffner announced his decision to step down on Aug. 4, after a report by Ohio Inspector General Randall Meyer, made public on Aug. 3, stated that Heffner, while serving as interim state superintendent last year before taking the job permanently, improperly expressed support for a bill that would have benefited Educational Testing Service, after he had reached an employment agreement with the company. Meyer's office also reported that Heffner had used his office's resources for personal business. Before his resignation, Heffner acknowledged mistakes he had made, and the chairwoman of the state school board, Debe Terhar, criticized him for his "woeful lack of judgment."
The state department's deputy superintendent, Michael Sawyers, will take over on an interim basis until the state board names a permanent replacement.
Heffner, who wrote in his Aug. 4 resignation letter that he has spent 38 years in the educational field, indicated that he did not want to become a political punching bag: "Because I don't want opponents of reform to be able to twist mistakes I've made into roadblocks to Ohio's reform efforts, I'm stepping aside to deny them even the chance of doing that."
Terhar expressed regret in her own Aug. 4 statement, saying that Heffner (whose last day is Aug. 10) put a renewed focus on "children as the center of our education system."
Before Heffner's resignation, the department was already dealing with a school attendance record investigation by State Auditor Dave Yost, who is probing to what extent school districts in the state manipulated those records in order to hide poor state test score results.