Dayton’s Lasley a top candidate for state school chief

Tom Lasley, executive director of Learn to Earn Dayton, has been identified as one of the top five candidates for Ohio’s state school superintendent post, according to information released Wednesday by the Ohio Department of Education.

Forty-four people applied for the post, which came open Jan. 1 when Richard Ross resigned after nearly three years on the job. The state superintendent is the CEO of the Ohio Department of Education, which oversees district, charter and joint vocational schools.

Lasley, professor and former dean of the School of Education at the University of Dayton, was identified by the search firm Ray and Associates as one of the top five applicants recommended to be interviewed by ODE officials.

Lasley said he was asked to apply by several friends in the education world, locally and statewide. He said if chosen for the job, two of his key areas of focus would be improving quality in early childhood learning, and increasing degree and credential attainment by Ohio students.

“Right now we don’t have enough innovation and enough variation in the practices that we have in place, especially for our high-poverty students,” Lasley said. “We simply can’t have the number of kids dropping out of our system that we do and say that the educational system is where it needs to be.

“We’re doing well by some of our kids, but not by others.”

The other four candidates listed by the search firm were Shonda Hardman, former chief of schools for the Houston, Texas, district; Penny Schwinn, chief accountability and performance officer for the state of Delaware’s Department of Education; Robert Sommers, CEO of Carpe Diem Learning Systems out of Middletown; and Tina Thomas-Manning, superintendent of Reynoldsburg schools near Columbus.

State board of education members will review all 44 applications over the next two weeks. On April 28, the board will meet in closed session to discuss applicants, then will publicly finalize the list of candidates to be interviewed. That will include the top five identified by Ray and Associates.

At the May 9-11 state board meeting, those finalists will be interviewed by the state board in closed session. Tom Gunlock, the current president of the state school board, is a Centerville resident, like Lasley.

Lasley said the next superintendent needs to have a vision on educational attainment, but also needs to provide enough consistency so schools and teachers can respond to that vision.

“Look what the state has done in the last five or 10 years, how our assessments have changed from the state, how our standards have changed,” Lasley said. “We have moving targets in terms of accountability. … You simply cannot keep changing everything and then be impatient with the ability of districts to deliver.”

Lasley called himself an education entrepreneur and a charter school fan, pointing to his role in converting the Dayton Early College Academy into a charter school.

“I believe in charter schools, but I think the state was not as aggressive as it needed to be in putting into place accountability protocols,” he said. “We have an obligation to make sure every one of our young people goes through a K-12 system that provides the best quality possible. And I think we’ve fallen short in that regard.”

Recently retired Springfield City Schools Superintendent David Estrop also applied, but was one of 27 applicants listed under the heading, “Does not meet qualifications” by Ray and Associates.

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