Plain Dealer editorial: Ohio Department of Education must turn over state superintendent's emails

Editorial from The Plain Dealer The Ohio Department of Education continues to provide flimsy and inadequate excuses for refusing to turn over the emails of retiring state schools Superintendent Richard Ross that might pertain to the illegal scrubbing of the poor grades of online schools.

It's hard to believe that not a single email sent or received by Ross dealt with this major scandal, which led earlier this year to the resignation of ODE's school-choice chief, David Hansen.

The department must obey the law and hand over these very public documents without further delay.

Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for ODE, said in an email the department intends "to comply with the requests," as it has in the past.

In that case, ODE should have honored Plain Dealer reporter Patrick O'Donnell's original request for all of Ross' emails about the scandal. It's clear the department has forgotten it is merely a custodian.

After ODE said there were no such emails because Ross rarely used email, O'Donnell asked for all of Ross' 2014 and 2015 emails. The response was another denial – on the grounds the request was too broad.

O'Donnell's latest request is for Ross' emails on Community Connections, a student mentoring program started by Gov. John Kasich – so he can determine how often Ross has used his email, at least on that topic.

Yes, ODE did turn over, at The Plain Dealer's request, 100,000 emails, texts and notes concerning the charter-school scrubbing scandal, but those documents included, amazingly, nothing – NOTHING -- from Ross.  For the record, Ross has maintained that he did not know that Hansen was erasing poor test scores from online charter schools.

Still, if the scrubbing hadn't been flagged by Plain Dealer reporter Patrick O'Donnell and the state school board, the sponsors of these schools might have been eligible to collect perks from ODE.  That would make a mockery of state efforts to reform Ohio's troubled charter school system by making it harder for bad charters to stay in business.

The Ohio Department of Education has to stop stalling, turn over all of Ross' emails relating to this incident and allow reporters the right to read every one of them.  Pronto.