Process to pick next state school superintendent still trudging along

Ohio has had instability in its top K-12 school job since superintendent Paolo DeMaria left in September 2021

Members of the Ohio State Board of Education are reviewing the nine proposals from search firms that are hoping to help find the next state superintendent of public instruction.

The State Board of Education oversees the Ohio Department of Education, which sets policies and guidelines for schools across Ohio based on Ohio’s laws. The state board also picks the state superintendent, who makes day-to-day decisions leading ODE and works closely with the board.

It’s been more than a year since Ohio had a stable, non-interim superintendent — five-year superintendent Paolo DeMaria left in September 2021.

In May, the board hired Steve Dackin to replace DeMaria as state superintendent, but he resigned after only a few weeks on the job after controversy about how he was hired, with accusations of ethics violations.

Stephanie Siddens served as interim superintendent after DeMaria left and returned to that role after Dackin left. Siddens has been with ODE since 2006, serving as senior executive director of the Center for Student Supports and previously senior executive director of curriculum and assessment.

The president of the state board, Charlotte McGuire, said she wants to speed up the process as much as possible, while keeping to the highest standard of transparency, integrity and board involvement. She said she’s hoping the board can interview a search firm in the group’s December meeting, set for Dec. 12-13, and move forward to look at selecting someone to be in the role.

Four members of the state board have been selected to look through the applications from search firms and bring the top three to the board to interview in person.

“My desire, hopefully, is that they will do their work in such a fashion and with such strategic urgency that we will be ready to interview the top three by the December meeting, McGuire said. “Now that’s pushing it, but that’s my goal.”

After the in-person interviews of the search firms, the board will need to define the next steps, McGuire said.

“We do want an expedited process for our children and for the state,” she said.

A realistic timeline for when the board may be able to begin onboarding someone would be early spring, but McGuire said she’d still like to see a quicker timeline, if possible.

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