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State School Boards Calls For Outside Review Of Education Department

Superintendent Richard Ross during the July meeting of the Ohio Board of Education.
Mark Urycki
State Impact Ohio

Seven members of the Ohio Board of Education have sent a letter to the state’s superintendent asking for an outside investigator to find out if he was involved in hiding poor charter school assessments.

Pressure has been building on the state’s education department since David Hansen resigned last month. The school choice director left over allegations he tossed out low scores for some online and dropout-recovery charter schools. A.J. Wagner is Dayton’s representative on the state school board. He says Superintendent Richard Ross had planned on appointing three people to review all the department of education’s contracts with charter schools.

“We just thought that that was weak,” Wagner said.  

He says Ross told the board last week about his plan—and they’re dissatisfied by the lack of outside oversight.

“We have evidence that they’ve skirted the rules, and gone around the rules. And for Dr. Ross to hire somebody to look at what he’s already done seemed to be a conflict of interest,” Wagner said.

Though Wagner points out it will take a majority vote from the board to override Ross. Right now, only seven out of 18 total board members have signed the letter. That means those seven will need support from some of the members appointed by Gov. John Kasich to hire an outside party.

ODE Director of Communication and Outreach Michael Sponhour says Dr. Ross agrees there are issues that need to be addressed with the sponsor evaluation system. 

"The evaluations were promptly retracted and we are working on a comprehensive plan to ensure that our evaluations are accurate and comply with the law. The State Auditor will also be looking at this matter as part of his regular review of our agency and we welcome his review. We look forward to working with the State Board to make sure these evaluations are sound," Sponhour said.