Reynoldsburg News

Ross is seeking top state educator post

By JOE VARDON
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Former Reynoldsburg schools superintendent Richard A. Ross has applied to be Ohio's next superintendent for public instruction.

Ross is currently director of the Governor's Office of 21st Century Education and an architect of Gov. John Kasich's proposed funding formula for public schools.

Michael L. Sawyers has been acting superintendent for public instruction since Stan Heffner resigned in August amid alleged ethical violations and misconduct. Sawyers also has applied for the post.

The 19-member state Board of Education will hire a superintendent, but the governor appoints eight of the state board members and has input.

"After more than 35 years of working in education, I am excited to continue my work with the boys and girls of Ohio, and I hope I'm favorably considered," Ross said in a statement confirming that he is seeking the job.

The candidate search and vetting process is being led by the firm Ray and Associates of Iowa. An associate of the firm said more than 30 people had applied by the Feb. 15 deadline.

The state school board could make its choice for a new superintendent in March.

Ross is a Reynoldsburg High School graduate who returned to the district to serve as its superintendent from 1988 to 2008. Prior to that, he was superintendent of schools in Bryan, Ohio, and in the Ottawa-Glandorf district in Ottawa, Ohio.

After he retired as Reynoldsburg superintendent in 2008, Ross served as chairman of the Youngstown Academic Distress Committee, a state panel working to improve student performance in that district.

Early in 2012, he accepted a Kasich appointment to head the Governor's Office of 21st Century Education.

Ann Jacobs, a Republican and an elected school board member from Lima who's been at odds with Kasich, said "of course" Ross will be hired "because he's a Kasich guy."

The Kasich administration made at least one move -- possibly more -- to clear the way for Ross to become superintendent.

Robert D. Sommers, who once held the position within Kasich's administration now held by Ross, was a finalist to be superintendent in 2011 but withdrew his name on advice from Kasich's legal counsel that the state's "revolving door" law would have prohibited him from interacting with Kasich's office for 12 months if he became superintendent.

Team Kasich added language to Senate Bill 314 last year clarifying that someone such as Ross (or in the previous case, Sommers) could, in fact, interact with Kasich's office on behalf of another state agency without violating ethics laws.

Also, Jason Rafeld, then chief legal counsel for the Bureau of Workers Compensation, moved to the Department of Education in October to serve as chief of staff, despite uncertainty over who would be his boss (as superintendent) in the long term.

Dispatch reporter Catherine Candisky contributed to this story.

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