State commission’s powers over Youngstown BOE broaden

By Harold Gwin

The school board president has said the board still plans to pursue the issue.

YOUNGSTOWN — Ohio’s secretary of public instruction has signed off on an amendment to the city school district’s financial- recovery plan that gives even broader authority to the state oversight commission now controlling district finances.

A spokesman for Deborah Delisle said the document was signed Friday.

The oversight commission and the school board are in a battle over the commission’s efforts to tighten control over district operations, specifically issues related to student transportation.

Youngstown was placed in fiscal emergency by the state in November 2006, resulting in the appointment of the commission and the requirement of the development of a financial-recovery plan.

When the city school board went against the commission’s wishes in planning to award a transportation-support-services contract, the commission moved to officially extend its controls in that area, proposing a recovery-plan amendment detailing how the district must handle the transportation issue.

When the school board objected to the commission’s action and voted Tuesday to hire a law firm to challenge that action, the commission expanded the recovery-plan amendment Thursday to include control over all purchase orders and all contracts for legal services.

In a separate resolution, the commission then denied the board’s retention of legal counsel for the purpose of challenging its authority.

Delisle’s signing of the amendment gives the state’s seal of approval to the commission’s actions.

Anthony Catale, school board president, said the board will continue to pursue the issue.

The commission’s actions regarding the transportation-support-services contract will cause the district to spend money it expected to save through reduced school-bus routes this school year and cost the district $500,000 in annual savings the support-services contract would guarantee, Catale said.

Youngstown spends about $5 million annually on transportation.

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