This may sound strange after a whirlwind 48 hours that started on Thursday when Ohio Superintendent Stan Heffner was rocked by ethics charges from  Ohio’s Inspector General and ended with Heffner’s resignation earlier today, but we tried to intervene and prevent it from occurring in the first place.  And Stan Heffner could have done so successfully but for one single sentence that he spoke to the Senate Finance Committee.

True story.

Last May, while Ohio was preoccupied with Senate Bill 5/Issue 2, the Governor was busy pushing through his first budget, HB153.  The budget bill also had numerous undesirable education reforms, but one in particular captured our attention — teacher retesting.  We wrote numerous posts on the awful provision as early as April 2011, but the provision continued to remain in the bill with minor changes.  As the month of May drew to a close, we obtained copies of the testimony of top officials, including then-Interim Superintendent Stan Heffner’s from May 11.

Heffner’s departure to ETS was no secret as it was often explained as the reason he was not in the running to become the permanent superintendent for Ohio, but the testimony he provided to Senate Finance piqued our curiosity.  Or at least, one sentence did:

New programs in HB 153 are geared toward attracting, rewarding and promoting good teaching, including the Teacher Incentive Payment Program, performance-based compensation requirements, revisions to the process for alternative licensure, and retesting teachers working in the schools at the bottom 10% of performance index scores.

That sentence provides the backdrop for the initial finding of unethical conduct by the Inspector General.  In a nutshell, the tests he promotes were singularly given by ETS, the company Heffner was under contract to go to work for.

When we discovered this conflict and assembled the pieces, we put out our first post on the topic — May 29, 2011.  In that post we laid out the entire story that eventually became the first ethics complaint.  But that complaint wasn’t filed for a full six weeks — all of June and half of July — plenty of time for Heffner to correct his misstep.  In fact, in that May 29 post and in numerous emails to the Board of Education and State Senators (HB153 was in the Senate at the time), we called for the interim superintendent to both recant his testimony and resign as his position.


To reiterate, we sent emails containing the specific question of the ethical nature of Heffner’s testimony to every single state senator and every single member of the State Board of Education.

In an attempt to publicize the story to an even wider audience, we also sent the specific allegations to reporters from The Columbus Dispatch (8 different individuals), the Cleveland Plain Dealer (4), and the Toledo Blade (1).  Not a single one picked up this story.

Back to the story…

At that time Heffner was still headed out the door to ETS, leaving behind the teacher retesting law for Ohio’s educators to deal with.  Our full intent was to get that law removed, but no one took any action to do so.

Therefore, we prepared our official allegation form for the Ohio Ethics Commission in the hopes that by discrediting the testimony we could somehow convince the legislature to repeal the law.

We submitted the complaint form on July 11.

The very next day in an amazing twist of fate, State Board President Debe Terhar, despite being informed multiple times of these ethics allegations, pulled a stunning switcheroo and hired Heffner permanently. (Board vote was officially 15-0 with 4 members abstaining.)

So instead of being in Texas with ETS, it turns out that Heffner would be here in Ohio to face the very real consequences of his actions, which now include not only potential criminal charges, but a resignation that embarrasses himself, the State Board of Education, and Governor Kasich.

Truthfully, the events of the last three days have been unimaginable and Stan Heffner is paying a steep price.

And today we are left to wonder — was the teacher retesting law worth it, Stan?



  • You wish

    True story…as opposed to many of the others you provide here. The day I believe you would help real ed reformers is the day I have lost sight of reality.

  • gregmild

    LOL Thanks for reading!

  • becca

    What’s the deputy superintendent like? My understanding is that is who will be taking Heffner’s place.

  • Let’s hope he actually gets charged with that tea party elected attorney general in office.

  • The interim superintendent, Michael Sawyers bought $500 worth of pizza on the taxpayer dime while superintendent of Perry which is adjacent to Heffner’s old Madison district. Can Ohio find a superintendent without ethical challenges and from somewhere other than the eastern half of Ohio’s geographically smallest county?

  • dmoore

    Doesn’t this make the Board president and those members who voted to hire Heffner complicit given they knew about the ETS ethics violation? Explain to me how they aren’t as guilty as he is?

  • Retrofuturistic

    Something about the idea of the Kasich administration and the Christian GOP prosecuting an ethics violation just seems to . . . smell.

  • Dmoore

    The more I think about this the more I wonder why the State Board of Education, excepting those who abstained, would approve Heffner’s hiring knowing there was a good case for an ethics violation thanks to Plunderbund’s diligent (and well documented) effort to inform them. How on earth did this pass the smell test with them? Could they have been influenced by someone we all know and love to go ahead with the appointment? Shouldn’t they all be subjected to further investigation by the IG?

  • Dmoore

    I can’t see how this board can survive this. One of their main responsibilities is to rule on ethics charges againse Ohio educators that often lead to revocation of licenses. But now they are tainted by having appointed someone they knew to have been involved in major ethics violations. How can they now sit in judgement of educators with this stone around their necks?

  • Clecinosu

    You wish: You’re serious?

    The day you believe anything truthful is the day you finally come BACK to reality. Go troll on the Dispatch site.

  • fairnessandjustice

    Lets stop and look at this for a second. Following the same logic that you are stating here. Based in comments and responses on the Dispatch and even some on this site over attendance issues, Columbus City Schools is culturally broken and the problem is present all the way from Harris to the bottom. I am willing to bet some of those are disgruntled people that are not happy in that organization. Every organization has people like that. Do I believe that is really the case at Columbus City Schools… No, not at all. If there are any issues they are most likely localized to a single person or a small number of people. It also could be occurring because those people believe they have the best intentions for the children, even if they are wrong.

    Now back to ODE… Just because the State Superintendent was caught doing something that he stated he believed was in the best interest of the children but based on all of the evidence presented is clearly wrong, does not mean that the agency has a complete culture of unethical behavior.

    I am fairly certain that the information being presented in a lot of comments on this site are a one person propaganda effort. This person thinks they have been treated unfairly and it is not true. One moderator has even commented on multiple posts that are most likely from the same person. But as a recent insurance commercial states “if you hear it on the internet it must be true” right? All I’m suggesting is for people to not take everything they hear as the truth especially if the person stating it doesn’t have to be accountable for accusations that are untrue.

    I understand that you have no reason to believe anything I write here more than anybody else. Look at it this way… Which is more likely, a single person or small group of two or three is disgruntled and taking their cause to the internet or most or all ODE leadership and high level non-management staff are unethical and corrupt. I don’t know about you but it is obvious to me (just for clarification I am going with disgruntled).

    As for the comments that are concerned about the ethics of the new interim superintendent… Remember he was interviewed and hired by the state superintendent that was brought in under Gov. Strickland, Deb Delisle. This doesn’t mean that he was or is infallible. I really don’t know enough about the man to comment.

  • Dmoore

    Stan Heffner has admitted to the ethics violations and resigned so this is not about disgruntled people getting revenge. I know Stan and I’m as shocked as anybody (He came in under Susan Zelman, by the way). Stan is a good man who had a deep comittment to education. He just did some really stupid things.
    This is about the head of Ohio’s public school system committing serious unethical acts that, if unaddressed, threaten the credibility of not only the ODE, but also of the State Board of Education that hired him knowing a formal complaint had been filed with the Ohio Ethics Commission. At the very least, the appointment should have been delayed so the matter could be looked into. But the fact that the Board went ahead and hired him calls their eithics into question. This defies reason and raises questions about outside influence.
    Are ethics important? Ask Bob Taft who is now a felon. The ODE itself has an Office of Professional Conduct whose purpose is to investigate unethical/illegal activity by educators. If Heffner would have been left in place, how could that office legitimately operate? I, for one, don’t think the entire ODE leadership is corrupt. But a sure way for that to happen would be to not hold the State Superintendent AND Board accountable for this.

  • SpotonHead

    This conspiracy theorist called “fairnessandjustice” is clearly trying to hide something by yet again pushing blame on other people. NO ONE believes that all of ODE is corrupt, NO ONE believes that all of management are corrupt, there is however clear evidence that there are some people attempting to hide things, misusing state equipment, wasting taxpayer dollars, cover ups, intimidating employees to not speak or provide information to auditors and providing no oversight to programs and people in the department. I dont believe that a disgruntled group of people are responsible for the reported things we are hearing about. Maybe you coin teachers and former employees as “disgruntled” but the truth is maybe they are just being honest which does not appear to be a trait that some at this agency are familiar with.

  • JamesIam

    You rhetorically ask Heffner: Was it worth it? In time, after Heffner takes his cushy job at ETS, moves, and faces no repercussions from the Ohio government, the answer will clearly be yes. Why not?

    You have to remember the level of arrogance we’re dealing with. These professional bureaucrats are in it for themselves and their friends. They’re not thinking about getting caught because nothing ever happens to them when they do.

    It reminds me of the end of every Scooby-Doo episode. Plunderbund pulls the sack off Heffner’s head to reveal the criminal, and he grumbles:

    “…And I’ve have gotten away with it if if weren’t for you pesky kids.”

    Then the episode ends.

  • Dmoore

    This is not surprising. There’s a level of denial among some people there that just won’t let them see the seriousness of what Heffner did. It’s easier for them to put this in the “politics” pile than to acknowledge the blatant ethics violations by the head of Ohio’s public school system that tultimately undermines the legitimacy of that organization. I feel bad for the employees there that follow the rules. This is a huge stain that will remain for a long time. And it isn’t over yet. There are some politicians who would like to see the ODE eliminated altogether. This only give them more ammunition.

  • very good post! need to say you did a great job

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