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Board of education hires legal counsel



Published: Wed, August 8, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



One board member said she's against spending money that doesn't help the children.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- Faced with two lawsuits, the board of education has hired a Cleveland law firm for its defense.

Armstrong, Mitchell, Damiani & amp; Zaccagnini will be paid $150 an hour. The action was taken Tuesday during a special board meeting.

Board member Rosemary Schmitt cast the only dissenting vote, and board member Jane Harris voted reluctantly to hire the firm.

The board is already represented by Atty. Christopher Newman of Youngstown.

Two lawsuits have been filed against the board in a week.

The suits: A $2 million suit seeks to halt the school administration from transferring Robert Foley as principal of the intermediate school to principal of the junior high school.

A $30 million suit was filed Monday by some 50 parents whose children attend Prospect Elementary School. The parents say the school has health problems because it is connected to the intermediate school that's closed because of pupil and teacher illnesses.

A parents group, Girard Concerned Citizens, says it will file petitions in an effort to remove the school board.

In a prepared statement, Schmitt said she was against the hiring of more legal representation.

Schmitt said, "But most of all, I cannot tolerate spending money in a negative way that will not benefit the children of Girard."

"We have all worked very hard to make Girard one of the best schools around," said the six-year board member.

Schmitt pointed out that the school system was nearly destroyed by opposing factions, adding the district lost money and credibility.

"Unfortunately, it seems we are going down that same twisted path again, and it truly makes me sick of heart,' Schmitt said.

Harris said before the meeting that the Cleveland lawyers are experienced in school litigation and worked previously with Joseph Shoaf, the district's new superintendent.

During the meeting, Harris was critical of those "willing to sacrifice the entire school district."

"It's no longer, at this point, about the children. It's about money," she asserted.

Harris said she didn't want to hire more legal representation because in the end they are the only ones who will gain.

"Nobody's going to win in this. Only the children will lose," said Harris, a 19-year board member.

She questioned if it wasn't the agenda of some who oppose the board to shut down the school system.

yovich@vindy.com




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