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Ohio State Board of Ed again delays selecting search firm for new state superintendent




The State Board of Education once again voted to delay naming a search firm to identify superintendent candidates.

In a 14-4-1 vote, the board pushed back until May’s board meeting on deciding on a search firm that would bring superintendent candidates for board review. This comes days after Ohio Department of Education’s interim superintendent of public instruction, Dr. Stephanie Siddens, announced she is leaving for a district-level position and as Senate Bill 1 moves through the legislature seeking to restructure the department as a whole.

Board members Teresa Fedor, Antoinette Miranda, Christina Collins and Meryl Johnson voted against postponing search firm selection and Katie Hofmann abstained from voting Tuesday during the April board meeting.

“I believe these candidates are going to be ready to help our students in Ohio, no matter what circumstances they are going to deal with in their responsibility,” Fedor said.

The state board previously narrowed down the candidates to three search firms: Ray & Associates of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; McPherson & Jacobson of Omaha, Nebraska; and the National Association of State Boards of Education in Alexandria, Virginia.

The three search firms gave presentations to the board in December, but the board postponed selecting a search firm at that time as well.

Concerns over Senate Bill 1

Many board members expressed their concerns during this month’s meeting about the uncertainty surrounding the future of the state superintendent’s role because of Senate Bill 1, which passed in the Ohio Senate on March 1.

“I believe that without having firm footing, our potential candidates would be less inclined to throw their hat in the ring,” said board member Diana Fessler. “…Candidates are not going to get in line and say ‘pick me, pick me,’ because the legislation is up in the air. It’s just bad timing.”

SB 1 would rename the department the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce and restructure the department. It would also create a new leadership position under the governor’s cabinet. Two deputy directors, one for primary and secondary education and another for workforce, would also be created under the bill.

The State Board of Education currently leads the process of selecting a state superintendent, who is the head of the department under the ODE as it stands. In most recent amendments to the SB 1 before it was passed by the Ohio Senate, the board of ed would still hold the authority to select the superintendent, but the Senate Education Committee changed the role to act as an “advisor” to the deputy directors, if needed.

Board member John Hagan said the board should hold off on naming a search firm “because we don’t know what the job is.”

“If we knew what the job was, we could move forward quickly,” he said.

Board Vice President Martha Manchester presented the idea of revisiting the candidate applications to make sure their proposals are still up to date.

“We definitely need to make sure that the proposal we are voting on is still up to date and that we are voting on what they are intending to provide us,” she said.

At-large member Brandon Kern expressed concern about the financial responsibility of selecting a search firm.

“With all the uncertainty, we are not going to get the public’s return on investment that we should by contracting a search firm,” he said.

Process to appoint a new interim superintendent

The State Board of Education leadership will ask Siddens to recommend an internal candidate or candidates for the board’s consideration.

Then the state board leadership will invite the recommended candidates to interview in executive session during next month’s meeting, which will take place May 8-9.

There could potentially be a vote to name a new interim superintendent at the May meeting and a draft resolution to appoint an interim superintendent will be included in the board materials for a potential vote.

Siddens named Upper Arlington City School’s Deputy Superintendent

Siddens is going to Upper Arlington City Schools to be the district’s deputy superintendent. The district’s board of education approved Siddens’ appointment during its Tuesday night meeting.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to support Ohio’s children, families and educators as interim superintendent of public instruction,” Siddens said in a statement. “I stand ready to ensure a successful transition.”

Her contract with Upper Arlington City Schools begins July 1 and ends July 31, 2025, according to board documents.

“I have been so impressed with the high-quality programming and dedicated, excellent staff at Upper Arlington City Schools,” Siddens said during the UA board meeting.

Her last day at ODE has not been confirmed.

This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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