COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two superintendents of public school districts in Ohio and a former vice president of the Ohio State Board of Education are the finalists vying to lead the Ohio Department of Education.

What You Need To Know

  • Three finalists are in the running to be the next education superintendent

  • The State Board of Education will interview the finalists at a May 9 meeting

  • The candidates include two superintendents and a former VP of the state board

After the board inteviewed seven candidates who were whittled down from the initial 28, the three finalists who received the most votes moved to the final round of the search for Ohio’s next superintendent of public instruction Thursday, officials said. 

Steve Dackin, who resigned as VP of the state education board to apply, received 17 votes, Springboro Schools Superintendent Larry Hook received 14 and Perrysburg Schools Superintendent Thomas Hosler received 13. 

The candidates will be interviewed again in a private board meeting on May 9 before board members pick the next superintendent, said Charlotte McGuire, president of the State Board of Education. 

Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria stepped down in the fall. The next superintendent will take over duties from Stephanie Siddens, interim education superintendent, who did not apply for the role. 

In picking the superintendent, the board is seeking to “deliver the leadership that will take us forward for positive change,” McGuire said. 

“We want academic excellence and we want every child to be able to pursue their dreams and aspirations,” she said. 

Here is a look at the three finalists: 

Steve Dackin

In February, Dackin resigned from his position as vice president of the board to apply for the superintendent position. 

Prior to his resignation, Dackin was in charge of the board’s search for the superintendent, reported.

In his application, Dackin said his vision for education in Ohio includes improving the quality of teaching and administration, expanding educational options for families, improving literacy and ensuring high school graduates are prepared to enter the workforce.

Dackin did not respond to an inquiry from Spectrum News about his switch from leading the superintendent search to applying for the job. 

In December, Dackin resigned from his position as the superintendent of school and community partnerships for Columbus State Community College to focus on his board duties, including the superintendent search.

He was the superintendent of Reynoldsburg City Schools from 2008 to 2014 and he was a finalist for the state superintendent job in 2011. 

Larry Hook

For the last two years, Hook has been the superintendent of Springboro Schools, a district with about 6,000 students in Warren County. Prior to taking his current job, he was the superintendent for 10 years at a smaller Warren County district, Carlisle Local Schools, which has about 1,600 students.

Hook said in his application that he has been involved in strategic planning processes to develop new curricular programs and abandon old ones to improve student academic performance. He also touted his work on projects to build new schools.

At the beginning of this school year, Hook wrote a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine along with other superintendents in the county, arguing that the state’s COVID-19 quarantine rules were too strict.

“Our families are tired of seeing healthy children sent home because of a one-size-fits-all quarantine rule that we do not use with any other virus,” their letter read.

Their advocacy led to a policy change in October when they state adopted “Mask to Stay” protocols for exposed students.

Hook has expressed pride that the district was one of the few in Ohio to offer five day in-person learning throughout the 2020-2021 school year, when many other districts were in remote and hybrid models. 

He supported vaccines for teachers, and under his leadership the district required masks for pre-K through 6th grade students earlier this school year at the request of the governor. 

Thomas Hosler

Since 2007, Hosler has been the superintendent of the largest district in Wood County, Perrysburg Schools, which has about 5,700 students.

He was the superintendent of Huron School District in southeast Michigan for the seven years prior.

Hosler said his background includes working with students in low-income families and with students who have disabilities.

In a November interview with Spectrum News, Hosler said he wrestled with decisions about mask policies during the pandemic, describing it as “a delicate balancing act.”

Perrysburg started the school year without a mask mandate, required masks during the delta surge, lifted the mask mandate and then briefly required masks again during the omicron surge. Hosler said child vaccinations helped the district move away from masks being required.

Last school year, Perrysburg was in and out of different learning models at various points in the year, including hybrid learning, a period of remote learning in the winter and five-day in-person learning in the spring.