Ohio Department of Education superintendent to retire in 2016

COLUMBUS -- The Superintendent of Ohio’s Department of Education announced Friday he will resign his post at the end of the year.

Dr. Richard Ross has served as superintendent since March 2013 and has been involved in public schools for over 40 years.

“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,” Ross 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.”

Before becoming superintendent, Ross was the superintendent of several public school districts and worked closely with Governor John Kasich on an overhaul of Cleveland City Schools in 2012. State Board of Education President Tom Gunlock praised Ross’s career accomplishments in the statement.

“Dr. Ross pushed hard for the kinds of reforms that education so desperately needed - never accepting the status quo,” Gunlock said. “His leadership will have a lasting and positive impact on Ohio families for many years to come.”

In an interview, Ross said his proudest accomplishments have been his reforms in Cleveland and Youngstown, the recent implementation of an adult high school diploma program and improving literacy in the state through the third grade reading guarantee.

"The third grade reading guarantee, in setting that expectation and empowering the student to be able to control their own life is just so important," Ross said.

The news of his upcoming resignation comes as increased scrutiny has been placed on the Department of Education after DOE School Choice Director David Hansen admitted to purposefully excluding the grades of failing online charter schools in school sponsor evaluations earlier this year. 

Progressive think tank ProgressOhio called the news of Ross's resignation "welcome."

Ross has repeatedly said he had no knowledge data tampering was taking place, though disclosed emails have shown that at least some of Hansen’s staff were aware. At recent state board of education meetings, Ross gave his reaction.                                                                                            

“It was inappropriate and unacceptable. If someone had shared it with me, we wouldn’t be here talking about it today,” he said. “It is so counter to what I believe. I believe in accountability for all schools. It doesn’t matter if they’re community schools or traditional schools.”

Ross’s close relationship with Kasich also recently faced criticism after the state quickly approved a state take-over of Youngstown City School management without first informing the State Board of Education. Last month, a Youngstown judge blocked an injunction on that plan.

That said, Ross said he feels the state is in a better place now, citing recently passed charter school reform measures as part of House Bill 2

"I do think we're in a better place, maybe not where we actually need to be," Ross said. "I think House Bill 2 is a really strong legislative bill. It's going to be a huge plus for us."

Ross said he plans on enjoying retirement after he leaves the position after December 31, 2015.

Ben Postlethwait is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him via email  or follow him on Twitter @BCPostlethwait

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