With the resignation of Bob Sommers last week it appeared that some of the friction between the Governor’s office and the Ohio Department of Education would begin to dissipate. You may recall that Sommers had his heart set on the role of State Superintendent, but had to withdraw from consideration after lawyers informed him that ”state ethics laws would keep him from having contact with the governor’s office for a year.” At that point, Stan Heffner was plucked from the millions of Ohioans who had also not applied for the job (after backing out of his Educational Testing Service position) and “elected” as Ohio’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. Since that time the two parties have been trying to navigate the political hierarchy as they worked to establish dominance over Ohio’s educational empire.
Now, with Kasich’s appointment of Bob Sommers’ successor, it leaves little doubt that Stan Heffner can claim victory.
Retired Reynoldsburg Superintendent Dr. Richard Ross has been tagged to be the new Director of the Governors Office for 21st Century Education. Ross retired on December 31, 2007 (he was coincidentally replaced by another late dropout of the Ohio Superintendent race, Stephen Dackin), after 35 years in education. Ross began his career as a high school teacher before jumping to the high school’s principal position after only 3 years. His 3-year stint as principal ended when he took a position at Bowling Green in conjunction with earning his doctorate. In 1982, at the age of 32, he took his first Superintendent position with the Ottawa-Glendorf Schools, then moved on only 2 years later when the Bryan City Schools came calling for him to lead their district. Ross finally settled down in Reynoldsburg City Schools in 1988 when he accepted their superintendent position and remained for 19 1/2 years. In 2007, the year he retired, Dr. Ross earned his School Treasurer and School Business Manager’s licenses, more evidence of his dedication to the business of operating a district.
It is obvious that Ross’ experience as an administrator is vast – he has been in an administrative role since he left the classroom in 1976, 35 years ago. Hopefully he can transform his experiences in supervising adults into an effective plan for implementing transformation teaching practices for our children that reflect their needs as learners in the 21st Century.
But best of all, Richard Ross and Stan Heffner are already acquainted and it is unquestionable that Heffner had a hand in this appointment. It was only three months ago that Heffner appointed Ross as the chair of the Youngstown Academic Distress Commission, an education commission created in 2010 after the district failed to meet adequate yearly progress for four consecutive school years (pursuant to ORC 3302.03).
Finally, Stan Heffner isn’t threatened by the possibility of the new director angling for the State Superintendent position, either. Dr. Ross opted to let both his teaching and superintendent licenses expire on June 30, 2011, removing the possibility that he could replace Heffner.
On a related note, no word from the Governor’s office on whether this appointment will impact Kasich’s position on the controversial practice of double-dipping by public employees as would be prohibited in House Bill 388.