Empowered by a new presence on the state school board, backers of Gov. John Kasich today forced out Ohio's state superintendent of education.
A tearful Deborah Delisle resigned this morning.
"Last Friday it was made known to me by two members of the governor's staff that my tenure was limited," Delisle said during a board meeting today. "They said they have the votes to replace me."
The resignation takes effect April 30.
"This is disgusting," said member Robin C. Hovis, a Republican dumped earlier in the meeting as board president and replaced by a Tea Party proponent. "I denounce it."
He predicted Kasich would pick a "puppet superintendent" and replace Ohio Department of Education staff.
Another board member, Michael Collins, an elected member from Westerville, said, "If we allow this to move forward ... the sanctity of the state board has come to an end ... Superintendent Delisle, I don't want to accept your letter."
Board member Mary Rose Oskar said: "I am in a state of shock. It is the board's responsibility to hire and fire the superintendent. Maybe there is an assumption that the governor has 10 votes on this board."
In the earlier vote also influenced by the governor's office, the board elected a new leader for the second time in as many months.
At its monthly meeting in Columbus, the panel voted 10-9 for Debe Terhar, a Cincinnati Tea Party conservative and two-month member of the board.
Board member Anne Jacobs told colleagues prior to the vote she was called by the governor's office and asked to support Terhar.
"I believe this is a nonpartisan board," Jacobs said.
But board member Danny Green remarked that "there should be no outside influence about who is leader of this board."
He also talked about "the 800-pound gorilla in the room ... it's charter schools versus public schools, it's Republicans versus Democrats. That's not what this board is about. This board is about all the children of Ohio."
Afterward, other board members said the Ohio Education Association was urging members to support Hovis.
Terhar said "it cannot be business as usual" and that the board "should be supporting programs that have best outcomes."
Terhar's election comes after a shift in power on the 19-member board and questions about a January election conducted by secret ballot. She replaced Hovis, a Republican from Millersport elected in January, narrowly defeating Terhar by a vote of 10-9.
But Hovis' narrow win quickly came under scrutiny when newly elected Kasich replaced a board member, appointed by his Democratic predecessor, who was caught up in a paperwork snafu.
Hovis last month announced the board would redo the election, adhering to the advice of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
Last week, a federal judge rejected Martha Harris' request for an injunction to keep her seat on the board, finding that "former Gov. Strickland's failure to submit (Harris') appointment to the Senate renders the appointment null and void."
Harris, a retired special-education teacher from Cleveland, filed suit after Kasich filled her seat, suggesting that the paperwork had been misplaced.
The 19-member board is made up of 11 elected members representing regions across the state and eight members appointed by the governor. All serve four-year terms.
Terhar, 58, is a former Montessori school teacher and mother of four. She is president of the Hamilton County Republican Women's Club, a member of Tea Party organizations in Hamilton and Warren counties, and among the founders of American Spirit Education Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of American heritage.
Delisle, superintendent of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District, was chosen to the state job in the fall of 2008.