Embattled Columbus City Schools Sees Treasurer Flee

In the wake of data-scrubbing scandals and and uncertain future for Columbus, Ohio schools, the treasurer for Columbus City Schools resigned. The move came as a surprise, as the board accepted Treasurer Penny Rucker’s resignation despite the reason for the resignation remaining unclear. Meanwhile, a significant amount was increased on the district’s legal bill regarding data-rigging allegations.

Rucker, 49, after the meeting, offered little explanation for why she’s leaving the $145,000-a-year post, except that “there’s just some other things that have developed for me as far as work, my family, and as far as for some other business opportunities that I’m working on”. She also said she’s looking “for a little more flexibility”.

No one pushed Rucker out, according to school board President Gary Baker, who took over as the leader of the board just last month.

“The treasurer decided that now was the time for a change, and so she made the decision to leave,” Baker said. “Nobody forced her to go, if that’s what you’re asking.”

The board would immediately begin a national search to replace Rucker, whose five-year anniversary with the district is this spring. Eliminating a contract provision that would have required Rucker to live in a house that she owned in the district, the board had voted just last summer to extend Rucker’s contract until mid-2017.

When Rucker changed her state-mandated, five-year financial forecast for the district from a $19.2 million shortfall to a $51 million bank account surplus, the Columbus City Schools’ levy campaign was thrown into damage-control mode last October just three weeks before almost 70% of residents voted it down.

As Bill Bush of The Columbus Dispatch reports, to defend itself from the lawsuit brought by The Dispatch, which says the board violated the Ohio Public Meetings Act, the board approved an additional $60,000.

As the district had collected more money than it needed in its medical self-insurance fund, the board approved paying its bus drivers, cooks, custodians, secretaries and other nonteaching staff a rebate totaling $7 million. When district employees’ health-care contributions of between $8.01 and $909.19 per check, depending on their job status, number of dependents and choice of medical plan, will go to zero, the money will be paid back over five paychecks. State law required that the money be returned as Interim Human Resources Director.