Gene T. Harris, who has been superintendent of the 50,000-student Columbus district since 2001, announced today that she plans to retire from the position in July. Columbus is among the school districts in Ohio currently under state investigation for allegations that school leaders tampered with student attendance data in order to boost school rankings.
In a press release announcing her decision, Harris said she planned to continue to work with the state and the district’s own internal auditor to “get to the bottom” of the concerns. “It is a high priority before I retire,” Ms. Harris said. The Ohio Auditor of State, Dave Yost, has not yet released findings from his office. The district’s internal auditor has found examples of students who were wiped from the books and then re-enrolled, which meant their test scores did not count for school accountability purposes.
The Columbus Dispatch newspaper characterized Harris’ departure as a “surprise,” noting that nine months ago Harris said she had no plans to leave, and would serve at least until her contract expired in mid-2014. The article notes that she has spent most of her career in Columbus schools as a teacher and as an administrator, and is one of the nation’s longest tenured urban superintendents.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.