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State Board of Ed, President At Odds Over Investigation

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Democrats on the Ohio Board of Education want an independent investigation into the resignation of the state’s charter schools chief. But the board president disagrees.  Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler reports.

David Hansen was the state’s top school choice official, but he quit last month after it was discovered he left failing grades out of state evaluations for online and dropout recovery schools. Hansen has said he felt those Fs would hide the successes in those schools. Democratic state school board member Stephanie Dodd says she was told by superintendent Richard Ross, who was hired by the board with the backing of Gov. John Kasich, that a review of internal e-mails showed the decision to omit those failing grades was Hansen’s alone. But then she says she read that newspapers who were checking into Hansen’s resignation had been refused those documents because the Ohio Department of Education was still investigating. “I’m being told conflicting things,” Dodd said. “So I think that escalates the cloud that is over the department.”

So Dodd says it’s time for an independent investigator to come in and determine what happened. “There’s still so much secrecy as to what happened, the unwillingness to turn over public records, the mistruths that have been stated,” Dodd said.

But Republican board president Tom Gunlock says the Department of Education needs time to do its own investigation. “We’re going to do this right, we’re going to demand accountability, and at the end of the day we’ll see where it plays out and we’ll go from there,” Gunlock said.

And he says Republicans brought up the questions about why the failing grades were left out, and that they’re not protecting the superintendent. “I don’t really care about the politics, frankly. All I care about is – did the department abide by the law? We do things correctly, and for those who don’t want to do it that way, they need to find other means of employment.”

Dodd says the Democrats are reaching out to the other 12 elected and appointed board members to urge them to call for an independent investigator at next month’s board meeting. But Gunlock says there’s no need for such an investigation now, because there’s been no evidence to suggest that anyone but Hansen was involved in leaving out the failing grades in the schools’ evaluations. By the way - Hansen used to head up the conservative Buckeye Institute and was the board chair of a Columbus charter school company. And he is married to the manager of Gov. Kasich’s presidential campaign.

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