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GIRARD SCHOOLS Hearing date awaits in push to oust members of board

Published: Thu, August 22, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.

A hearing on the matter should be set within the next 30 days.
GIRARD -- People from both sides of a legal attempt to remove members of the board of education are ready for a judge to set a hearing.
A unanimous ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday allows the Girard Concerned Parents to continue their petition drive to oust board president Jamie DeVore, vice president Jane A. Harris and member Richard Ragozine.
Two other board members who were part of the original complaint are no longer on the board; one resigned and the other lost a re-election bid.
Visiting Judge Mitchell Shaker could set a hearing in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court for anytime within the next 30 days, but both sides say the sooner, the better.
"I expect to hear within the next day or two that a hearing will take place within the next two weeks," said Atty. Sebastian Rucci, who represents Girard Concerned Parents.
Rucci said he was not surprised by the ruling, which reaffirms rulings by Judge Shaker and the 11th District Court of Appeals not to dismiss the case on a request from the school board.
The board sought dismissal, saying members hadn't received proper notice of a complaint before a hearing.
Atty. Bruce A. Zaccagnini, who represents the board, could not be reached, but DeVore said he is ready for a hearing, too, so he can answer questions truthfully.
"I'm looking forward to getting this behind me," he said. "If we've got to go to court, then we've got to go to court. I have nothing to hide."
Source of complaint
The parents group filed petitions bearing more than 1,600 signatures in September, contending board of education members knew pupils, faculty and staff of Girard Intermediate School were suffering from health problems long before they closed the school in May 2001.
The health problems, including itchy and burning eyes, vomiting and rashes, were the result of inadequate ventilation and fungi found in some areas of carpeting, according to Clayton Group Services of Akron, an environmental consultant.
DeVore said the board closed the school in May to ease concerns of parents and the community. He said environmental groups, including Clayton, have come in to perform testing at the school but never suggested closing the building.
"We did what we felt was proper for the community, even though no one told us to close the school," DeVore said.
Parents of pupils
DeVore said one of his three children attended Girard Intermediate while it was open but never suffered from any health problems.
Kathy Ross, president of Girard Concerned Parents, said her daughter also attended the school and suffered from red, puffy and itchy eyes.
"But by far, she was not as bad as some of the other teachers and students," Ross said.
Ross said she, too, is looking forward to the hearing, and she plans to attend and testify if called upon.
She said although the group is seeking removal of the three board members, they have no one specific in mind to fill the positions.
"I just want someone in there who is going to listen to people's concerns and questions," Ross said.

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