Volatile crowd backs Austintown BOE member
By Elise Franco
By the end of the school board’s Tuesday meeting one thing was clear — nearly 200 people stood behind board member Harold Porter and his letter calling for the resignation of Superintendent Vince Colaluca.
Porter sent an email Monday to Colaluca and the board of education saying, “I can no longer tolerate your inadequate and failed leadership that I have witnessed over the past several years. I request you immediately submit your resignation to the board.”
Colaluca responded to Porter’s email with a letter of his own, which was made available to the public during the meeting. He wrote that he was “sad and disappointed that rather than meet with me face-to-face in a professional manner, Mr. Porter chose to publicly make false and defamatory statements about me.”
Porter, who said he stands by his email, cited his frustration at what he believes is unnecessary spending as another reason Colaluca should step down.
Porter said teachers are now buying many of their own supplies, but the district has spent thousands of dollars on a marketing campaign, a study to demolish the old Austintown Middle School and a GPS tracking system for the bus fleet.
“How can we come to you next year for a levy, and with a straight face, say, ‘Give us more money,’ when we don’t know how to manage the funds we have?” Porter asked.
In the volatile crowd of staff, students parents and residents — most wearing red in support of Porter — about 15 voiced their opinions about Colaluca’s tenure. Several echoed Porter’s email, calling for his resignation.
Jim Sobie, of Austintown, was one of those residents. “In your response to Mr. Porter’s email, you say the district is doing more with less,” Sobie said. “Who is? The [bus] drivers aren’t; the teachers aren’t.”
Barb Tomik, president of Austintown Educators Association, said communication among the administration and teachers has been in decline.
“The ongoing poor communication is increasing,” she said. “The central office, the board and the AEA need to work together to ensure communication is clear and consistent.”
Fred Marcum, an Austintown resident who said he’s filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain district financial records, said it’s hard to trust in a board and superintendent who won’t respond when the public poses direct questions.
“We as residents have no choice but to assume ... I’m going to assume you’re not doing your job,” he said.
Colaluca responded to the public outcry after the meeting, saying, “Every single person who spoke” had an issued with the board. He said it was that anger that drove their responses.
Colaluca said his priority has always been the students. “I sincerely want to resolve this matter and focus our efforts on what really matters: the students.”
At the end of the meeting, Porter made a motion for Colaluca’s immediate dismissal. No other board member would second the motion.