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Ohio's Next School Chief Faces Some Big Challenges, Including Charter Schools

Richard Ross

The Ohio Board of Education has named Lonny Rivera a temporary replacement for state superintendent Richard Ross, who retires in at the end of this month. The search, however, is only just beginning for a permanent replacement of what some call the most important agency in state government.


The department has been mired in scandal since a top official, David Hansen, was caught removing low-performing charter schools from the grades used to measure their sponsors. That's put a hold on $71 million in new federal funding for Ohio's charter schools.

State Board of Education member Michael Collins says the new chief must lead by example and generate respect. He also wants a person who can deal with the new federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“I want someone who can establish a voice in Washington," said Collins. "Our voice in Washington. Is much smaller than it used to be. I tell you this new ESEA law, the actual regulations, can be influenced."

Senate Education Committee chair Peggy Lehner agrees.

“Given the fact the new federal laws have changed, there’s going to be a lot of thought, and changes are going to have to take place here at the state level," said Lehner. "So we’re going to need someone with a lot of vision, a lot of courage, because change around here is hard.”

Lehner’s counterpart in the House, Rep. Andy Brenner, is less concerned about national trends.

“I’d like to see someone focused obviously on Ohio --  just making sure Ohio schools work the best,” said Brenner.

Brenner does agree with Collins on one point: The new superintendent should make sure the trains run on time.