Carol Perkins said she has no illusions that 2014 in the Columbus City Schools district will be an easy year.
The district continues to face an ongoing data-scrubbing scandal, a large budget shortfall and the specter that half the district's third-graders will not be promoted to the fourth grade because of their performance on the reading portion of the Ohio Achievement Assessment.
But Perkins, the school board president who is stepping down from her leadership role in 2014, said the district will stand strong and tackle the issues head-on.
The repeated scandals, and the district's miserable performance on the State Report Card in 2013, have taken their toll, she said.
"First of all it's been traumatic," Perkins said. "I'm talking overall."
The Ohio Auditor's Office will issue a report this year on the data-scrubbing scandal that accused employees of manipulating students' attendance and grade records to improve their schools' standing on the State Report Card.
On a more promising note, state Auditor Dave Yost praised the district for its new data-reporting policies.
"Whatever the findings might be the board will stand behind the report and take whatever correction action is needed," Perkins said, "and that's been our position all along."
After five years as board president, Perkins said she will not seek re-appointment to that position.
"I never intended to stay in the position for the rest of my life," she said. "I think now is as good a time as any to change leadership and move us in a good direction."
She had high praise for interim Superintendent Dan Good, who replaced longtime superintendent Gene Harris this year.
Perkins said Good's done an "impressive job, given the circumstances and timing when bringing him in."
"His work ethic, his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, has been very impressive," she said.
The search for a permanent superintendent continues in earnest, she said.
"We're working on that," she said.
"We're hoping to have someone as soon as soon as possible."
School officials faced an embarrassing lopsided loss at the General Election ballot, where Issue 50, a 9.01-mill combination operating levy bond issue, failed 69-31 percent.
Issue 51, which would have created an independent auditor at the district level, also was defeated soundly.
"I think what we can take away from the levy is that education was a topic of discussion in 2013, as it should be," Perkins said.
The district is regrouping and looking for $50 million in budget cuts in the near term, Perkins said.
"One of the things that I think is often missed is the point that regardless of the outcome of the past levy, the work still continues," she said.
Perkins declined to discuss the likelihood of another levy appearing on the ballot this year.
"I think it's going to be important for the board to go back and find funding that's available and determine what amount ... and when," she said.
"Other than that, in terms of guessing and trying to come up with a time, is really premature."
Perkins brushed aside a high-profile spat she had with Mayor Michael B. Coleman in 2013.
According to published reports, she bristled at the mayor's suggestion the district put off the search for a permanent superintendent and hire an interim chief and later rejecting advice from the Columbus Education Commission, the members of which Coleman appointed.
The failed Issue 50-51 plan came from Coleman's commission.
"First off, we welcome the mayor's support as leader of the city," Perkins said. "It made perfect sense for him to take on this role."
A report issued late in the year showed more than half of the district's third-graders were not meeting the score required for them to be able to advance to the fourth grade for the purposes of reading.
The district, in turn, put in place a crisis plan to address the situation.
Third-graders have until May to pass the test. Perkins said the district must "provide resources necessary in making those students successful."
"It is going to be very difficult," she said. "And I think the board recognizes and understands that."
Perkins said she won't seek re-election to the board in 2015.
"But I will continue, as long as I can, to support the future leadership of the board," she said.
"It's my hope that whomever is elected, the community will rally around the new leadership and will support them and the board to make us successful."