Ohio’s top education official leaves her job as Republicans push plan to remake ODE

Ohio’s top education official leaves her job as Republicans push plan to remake ODE
Stephanie Siddens is interim state superintendent of the Ohio Department of Education

Stephanie Siddens is interim state superintendent of the Ohio Department of Education

As state lawmakers whether debate to fundamentally change the role of Ohio’s top education official, the woman in that position has decided to leave.

Stephanie Siddens, who has served as interim state superintendent for nearly two years, is expected to be approved as deputy superintendent for the Upper Arlington School District at its school board meeting Tuesday evening.

“Dr. Siddens and Dr. [Kristin] Robbins really stood out in our search to fill these vital roles in our administrative team,” Upper Arlington Superintendent Robert Hunt said in a statement. “They will be tremendous assets to Upper Arlington Schools and the community as a whole.”

Documents posted for the meeting stated Siddens would start in the suburban Columbus district on July 1.

Siddens didn’t respond to a request for comment but posted on Twitter that it was “an honor to serve the students and schools of Ohio as interim superintendent.”

Her impending departure comes as Republicans in the House and Senate push forward with legislation to remake how the Ohio Department of Education operates.

Senate Bill 1 would strip most educational responsibilities like curricula and long-term planning from a partially elected state board (which hires the state superintendent) and give it to the governor’s office.

The new director, who would be appointed to a new cabinet position by Gov. Mike DeWine, would oversee the education of Ohio’s 1.6 million public school children. The State Board of Education would be delegated to process teacher licenses and revocations. And Siddens’ current role as state superintendent would become an advisory position, both to the board and the new director.

“I feel that the purpose of the legislation is critical to the improvement of the state,” sponsor Bill Sen. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin, said when he reintroduced SB 1 in January.

more: Ohio Senate trying again for education overhaul giving more power to governor

But Democrats have called his plan a political power grab that would restrict the ability of all parents to directly question state educational policies. The current State Board of Education holds monthly meetings where members of the public can testify.

Siddens hasn’t publicly commented on the legislation.

Politicians and education advocates were quick to wish Siddens their best, including Gov. DeWine.

“I have nothing but respect for Interim Superintendent Siddens and appreciate her service as acting superintendent,” Reineke said in a statement. “It is clear, however, that the governing structure at the Ohio Department of Education does not work. The State Board of Education has had two years to hire a full-time leader and has failed.

Others, like Ohio Education President Scott DiMauro, were “disappointed” to see her go.

“She has provided steady leadership during a time of uncertainty over the future of the department,” he said. “I wish her nothing but the best.”

When asked whether that uncertainty might have contributed to the move from overseeing the state’s education policy to serving as a local assistant superintendent, DiMaure said, “It wouldn’t surprise me, but I really don’t know.”

Anna Staver is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio State Superintendent leaves as GOP pushes for education overhaul