Ohio State Schools Chief Says She Was Pressured to Resign

By Sean Cavanagh — March 15, 2011 1 min read
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Ohio state schools chief Deborah Delisle is stepping down from her post—under pressure, she says, from Gov. John Kasich.

In a resignation letter dated today, Delisle said two of Kasich’s staff members made it known to her that her “tenure as state superintendent was coming to an end.”

“Specifically, I was informed that if I chose not to create an exit strategy, I would soon be replaced by a majority vote of the state board of education,” Delisle wrote to members of the board.

To avoid that fate, Delisle said, she was announcing she would resign effective April 30.

Kasich’s office has not yet responded to a question about whether they dispute Delisle’s version of events. Earlier today, the office of the Republican govenor released a short statement thanking Delisle for her “service to our state,” adding that he wished her well “in all her future endeavors.”

[UPDATE: March 16. Connie Wehrkamp, a spokeswoman for Kasich, told me in a statement: “The meeting Ms. Delisle referred to in her letter was private. ...However, it is safe to say that it is absolutely critical to have someone in that position who share’s Gov. Kasich’s views on education.”]

Delisle served as superintendent of public instruction for two and a half years. She was appointed to the post by board members, who reportedly gave then-Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, input in the decision. Delisle leaves as Ohio moves forward with implementing its plan in the federal Race to the Top competition, in which the state was named one of just 12 nationwide winners.

Some board members, including a Republican panelist, have responded angrily to Delisle’s resignation, and what they saw as the governor’s hand in it, the Columbus Dispatch reports. That Republican board member, Robin C. Hovis, was replaced as president of the panel by Debe Terhar. Ohio’s state board has 19 members, 11 of whom are elected and eight of whom are appointed by the governor.

Kasich praised Terhar, saying in a statement that he looks “forward to working with her to put more dollars in the classroom and less in bureaucracy, empower parents and teachers to improve our schools for Ohio’s children.”

The governor, elected last fall, has promised big changes in Ohio’s schools, in areas such as dismantling Strickland’s school funding system and in reducing teachers’ collective bargaining rights, through legislation now moving through the statehouse.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.