Tue. 7:57 p.m.: Ohio school board members seek education department review of Youngstown plan

COLUMBUS – Several state school board members are calling for an independent investigation of the Ohio Department of Education and state superintendent amid concerns about the handling of charter school evaluations and the creation of a Youngstown schools plan.

In a letter dated Monday to state Superintendent Richard Ross, the seven board members said that they want a review of the role the superintendent and department had in legislation that puts a CEO in charge of running Youngstown’s city schools.

Under the measure that was signed into law by the governor last month, the state superintendent would appoint three of five members of a new academic distress commission for the district. The commission would then pick a CEO to have full reign of the schools.

State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, praised the Board of Trustees for its resolution condemning what she calls the fast-track takeover of the Youngstown City Schools.

“The last-minute amendment to HB 70 was an unprecedented attack on local control and a brazen attempt to push students out of the Youngstown City Schools and into failing, for-profit charter schools,” Lepore-Hagan said. “I hope my colleagues in the General Assembly, the State Board of Education and the governor will heed the board’s resolution and move to restore local control to the community.

“The people that Senator (Joe) Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and I have met with and spoken to are committed to ensuring that the children of Youngstown have access to a high-quality public education that will prepare them for success in the future,” Lepore-Hagan said. “No one believes that destroying our school system will achieve that goal.”

The seven board members also said in their letter that an investigation is needed to ensure the department and Ross’ credibility and compliance with state laws and rules.

The board members’ letter follows a former state education official’s decision to exclude failing grades for charter schools in evaluations of the schools’ overseers.

David Hansen, the School Choice director for the Education Department, resigned July 18 after confirming that he left F grades for online and dropout recovery schools off evaluations of charter school sponsors. He said he felt the marks would “mask” successes elsewhere.

The evaluations have been retracted.

Hansen’s wife is the former chief of staff to Republican Gov. John Kasich. She recently left the role to work for Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign.

In their letter, the school board members told Ross he was “a prime suspect” in what occurred with the evaluations.

“Mr. Hansen may have taken the fall, but you were his boss,” they wrote. “Whether by mismanagement, or deliberate instruction to Mr. Hansen, you are culpable as well.”

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter today from two board members who signed it – Stephanie Dodd and Roslyn Painter-Goffi. Other board members on the letter were Pat Bruns, Ann Jacobs, A.J. Wagner, Michael Collins and Mary Rose Oakar. The seven are elected members of the 19-member board, which has one vacancy.