Ohio names superintendent

Monday, December 14, 1998

The Associated Press

Susan Tave Zelman
COLUMBUS - Ohio's new superintendent of public instruction has set a lofty goal for herself and the state: To make Ohio's one of the top school systems in the country by 2010.

The State Board of Education voted 18-1 Sunday to hire Susan Tave Zelman to replace John Goff, who is retiring Dec. 31 after 3 years as superintendent. Ms. Zelman, the deputy commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, is expected to begin her new duties March 8.

She labeled herself as a great supporter of public schools, but thinks there is room for experiments such as school vouchers. After the vote, she challenged educators, legislators, civic leaders, parents and community groups to work together.

"Let's all work collaboratively together so that, by 2010, Ohio will be rated among the top systems in the nation, and Ohioans will view the schools as the best possible," she said.

Among her goals:

  • Demanding high expectations and academic standards for children;

  • Ensuring that all children can read by the fourth grade and that all students complete high school prepared for college and work;

  • Working with local school districts to make sure they have the authority, flexibility and resources they need;

  • Developing a system to recruit, prepare and retain top public school teachers.

Ms. Zelman comes to Ohio at a time of great debate over how public schools should be funded and whether tax dollars in the form of vouchers should be used to help students go to private schools.

The Ohio Supreme Court has found the system of funding public schools unconstitutional. The Perry County judge who was the first to determine the system unconstitutional is weighing whether legislators have done enough in response to the high court's decision.

"There is a lot going on, but with challenge comes opportunity," Ms. Zelman said.

Ms. Zelman, 52, was chosen from 19 candidates. That list was narrowed to four finalists after two days of interviews in October.

"We were most impressed with her no-nonsense attitude combined with an in-depth knowledge and experience in areas that are facing the board at present," board President Jennifer Sheets said.

Ms. Zelman's base salary will be $135,000 a year and she can make up to $15,000 more in bonuses that will be based on performance standards; Mr. Goff was paid $135,844.

Ms. Sheets said the performance bonuses, which will be based on standards to be established before Mr. Zelman starts, are new for the board.

"We need to be accountable in education for results," she said.

Diana Fessler, who cast the dissenting vote, said she supports hiring Ms. Zelman, but thinks the salary is too high.

Ms. Zelman has spent the past four years in Missouri, worked for the Massachusetts Department of Education from 1987-1994 and was a professor at Emmanuel College in Boston for six years. She earned her master's and doctoral degrees at the University of Michigan.

The board is expected to pick an interim superintendent Tuesday.

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