Ohio's State School Superintendent To Retire

Richard Ross (education.ohio.gov)
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After a tough few months, the leader of Ohio's education department has announced he's retiring at the end of the year. Statehouse reporter Jo Ingles has more on why Richard Ross is stepping down and where the department will go from here.

A few years ago, former Reynoldsburg City School Superintendent Richard Ross was enjoying his retirement. Then the call came. Gov. John Kasich wanted him to be an education advisor. Then in 2013, he became the state school superintendent, Kasich's appointee to head the Ohio Department of Education.

And since that day, he's been part of a lot of changes. And the change he thinks has been most important is the establishment of the third grade reading guarantee, the law that requires students must be reading at the third grade level to be promoted to fourth grade.

'We had a large number of students that were having difficulty and were being socially promoted on in school. And what happens is, if they are socially promoted, they end up falling further and further behind, and then all of a sudden when they are 16 years old, they just don't show up in school one day. They end up in poor paying jobs and heading toward poverty. And it is just insidious. They drop out."

Ross says he's also proud that, under his tenure, Ohio adults were given a pathway to earn their high school diplomas. He's also been part of expanding early childhood education and career tech opportunities. But there have been bumps along the way too.

The state's takeover of the Youngstown City Schools, which Ross helped to negotiate in secret and to implement, has been widely criticized by public school advocates, though Ross says a lot of parents and members of the community have supported it. And then there's the data scandal that came to light this summer. The state's school choice leader changed data to make non-public charter schools look better.

That official later admitted it was his decision to leave out those failing grades for charter schools and resigned. But it was revealed that the state wrote a grant during that time for $71 million of federal dollars for charter schools. That grant was awarded and since then, limits have been placed on it. Recently, lawmakers passed a new law to hold charter schools more accountable. Sandy Theis is with Progress Ohio and is an outspoken opponent of Ross. She says now is a good time for him to leave.

"Under Dick Ross, the department had a pattern of covering up for bad charters. So I was concerned that he'd bring that same mindset to the new law. So this gives us an opportunity to go in and do a national search and find somebody who wants to encourage good charter schools and discourage the bad ones."

But Ross says the charter school problem is why he didn't retire earlier.

"I had planned to leave at the time the budget was completed which had pre-dated all of this so I just couldn't leave in the middle of this issue."

Ross says his retirement will be real this time around. He doesn't anticipate taking up another job.

"I'm looking forward to spending time with my wife at the lake house and also with my granddaughter who is six and a half months old."

Ross's last day is December 31st.

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