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Ohio's New Education Boss: Gov. Kasich's K-12 Adviser

The new Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction will be Richard Ross, who is currently serving as the education adviser to GOP Gov. John Kasich, the Associated Press reported March 12. Ross was selected to the post by the state board of education by a 10-6 vote over other candidates that reportedly included former West Virginia superintendent Jorea Marple.

Ross will take over as superintendent from Michael Sawyers, who was serving in the position on an interim basis, but received support for taking over the job permanently from several of the state board members, 11 of whom are elected by the public and eight of whom are appointed by the governor (one at-large seat is vacant). Not surprisingly, Kasich appointees weighed in heavily for Ross.

As Kasich's top K-12 man for roughly the past year, Ross helped craft the Ohio school-finance overhaul in the state that I wrote about recently, and has also been involved in implementing a new A-F school grading system in the state, as well as a proposed expansion of the state's private-school voucher program. He hasn't just worked in the shadows, either. When some of the less-wealthy districts complained recently that the new education-funding system pitched by Kasich did not help them as much as his administration advertised, Ross publicly defended it in the press.

"Because of my relationships with both the legislature and with the governor, it affords an unusual and powerful opportunity to advocate for the positions of the state board in the name of our boys and girls in the state," Ross said, according to the AP, adding later that, "It's like my DNA is aligned to help advance teaching and learning."

Ross previously served as the superintendent of Reynoldsburg schools, which are in the suburbs of Columbus, the state capital.

But some on the state board argued that Ross could be too controversial given the recent controversy over K-12 funding. Board member Michael Collins, who is publicly elected, said that Ross' "attachment to this education budget proposal definitely will not sit all that well with the field in terms of getting started."

The previous permanent superintendent for Ohio schools was Stan Heffner, who resigned last August after a report from the state Inspector General Randall Meyer found that he improperly used his office's resources for personal benefit, and also misused his position to lobby Ohio lawmakers on behalf of Educational Testing Services. Sawyers subsequently took over for Heffner.

Ironically enough, Sawyers previously encountered his own ethics difficulties when he charged personal expenses on the credit card belonging to an Ohio school district he previously worked for. Ross, in turn, was arrested for and pleaded guilty to drunk driving several years ago.

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