COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State Board of Education chose one of its own to lead the education of the state’s 1.7 million students as superintendent of public instruction.
Steve Dackin was vice president of the State Board of Education and led the search for a vacant superintendent position before resigning and applying for the job three days later. The deadline to apply was the following day.
There are 19 members of the State Board of Education. Dackin received 14 votes in favor on Tuesday afternoon.
Larry Hook, a more conservative candidate who is superintendent of Springboro Community City School District in Southwest Ohio, received four votes. A third finalist, Thomas L. Hosler, superintendent of Perrysburg Exempted Village Schools near Toledo, received none.
Member Diana Fessler, who is from Logan County, abstained from voting.
Dackin wasn’t present for the vote. He hasn’t addressed previous questions from cleveland.com/The Plain Dealer about whether he believes being in a position to see the applications and resumes of competing applicants gave him an unfair advantage.
The state superintendent leads the Ohio Department of Education, which develops academic standards and model curricula. The role also requires him to administer the school funding system. Dackin will also administer the school funding system, standardized tests, issue school and district report cards and administer private school voucher programs, among other responsibilities.
Most recently, Dackin worked for Columbus State Community College, over school and community partnerships, before retiring to run the superintendent search. Before that, he was superintendent of the school district in Reynoldsburg, a suburb of Columbus. He touted narrowing the achievement gap between white and minority students.
In October, Dackin voted to rescind an anti-racism and equity resolution that the school board had passed in the wake of George Floyd’s death, which acknowledged “profound disparities between Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) students and their white peers exist in all parts of the Ohio education system” and progress to address them have been uneven.
Dackin is a registered Republican, according to the Franklin County Board of Elections.
Ohio State Board of Education President Charlotte McGuire said that Dackin didn’t have an unfair advantage over other candidates. He saw no documents, applications or other materials that the other board members also didn’t see. Even though Dackin sat through board meetings and closed-door sessions when the desired qualifications of the superintendent were discussed, McGuire said he didn’t have exclusive information that the other candidates lacked.
She said much of Dackin’s work in the superintendent search was around the hiring of a private-sector search firm. Ultimately, the board decided to keep the search in-house and not use a firm. The board was fiscally prudent in making that decision, McGuire said.
McGuire hopes Dackin starts soon. The board wants him to focus on improving reading scores across the state, McGuire said.
“We want to work on reading acceleration because reading is fundamental to every content area,” she said. “So we’re going to be looking at a measure that ties how we can improve reading and improve outcomes for students.”
McGuire said that Dackin’s experience had a lot to explain why he stood out as a candidate.
The board wants a better transition for high school graduates into the trades, workforce or college. Dackin has experience with that at Columbus State, she said. She said he is willing to take risks for younger students, too.
“We’re going to take a serious look at the department: Where we are, where we want to be, how are we going to get there, how many staff is going to take us to get there,” she said.
Dackin will serve as an at-will employee at the pleasure of the state school board. His annual salary will be $215,000. He will have an option of a car allowance of $550 a month, or $6,600 a year, or use of a state vehicle.
He will also have the ability to receive an annual performance bonus of up to $35,000, with the state board discussing and approving the terms of the bonus at a later time.
Shortly after Dackin’s appointment, a flurry of emails from statewide organizations went out, congratulating him on his new job.
Ohio Excels, an education advocacy group made up of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the Ohio Business Roundtable and other business groups, called Dackin “the right person at the right time.”
The Ohio Education Association said it wants to work collaboratively with him.
Honesty for Ohio Education, a group of teachers unions, the NAACP, the ACLU Ohio and others who are fighting against attempts by conservatives to control learning in public schools, especially on topics addressing racism and sexism, said Dackin comes to the job with many challenges in education.
“From day one, Mr Dackin must lean in with honesty, courage and a commitment to do what’s right for our young people,” Cynthia Peeples, founding director of the coalition. “He must ensure that facts, hard truths, and diverse perspectives are infused into instruction in our public schools. Failure to do so will allow our state to fall behind – we must actively build an educated workforce and communities that are ready and able to engage in our civic life.”
“I congratulate Steve Dackin on his selection as Superintendent of Public Instruction by the State Board of Education,” Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement. “His experience, both as a member of the Board and in public education, will help him be an effective voice for Ohio’s students and their parents as he leads the Department of Education.”