A year and nine months have passed since the constitutionality of the Youngstown Plan was challenged in the 10th District Court of Appeals in Columbus. The time has come for a decision.
So long as the issue remains in limbo, the Youngstown Board of Education will keep up its ridiculous campaign to undermine the district’s chief executive officer, Krish Mohip.
The CEO position is a main feature of the Youngstown Plan, formally known as House Bill 70. The legislation, passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and signed into law by Republican Gov. John R. Kasich, lays out how public school districts that are in academic trouble are to be governed.
In addition to greatly weakening the position of superintendent, HB 70 also strips the board of education of all powers through the creation of a special academic distress commission.
The commission’s chief responsibility is to hire the CEO, who has sweeping powers under the law.
Therein lies the problem in Youngs-town.
The elected school board members have been marginalized, which means whatever they say or do can be ignored by Mohip and the academic distress commission. The CEO has tried to soften the blow by offering to let members serve in an advisory capacity.
However, the school board would rather toss out inane comments about the district’s academic-recovery effort than provide intelligent advice.
The latest example of the school board’s ongoing campaign against Mohip and the commission came last week when member Corrine Sanderson offered a resolution that challenges the constitutionality of HB 70 and contends that Mohip has abused the powers granted to the CEO.
Sanderson’s colleagues on the board postponed action on the resolution so a lawyer can review its language and content.
This is just the latest in a series of embarrassing acts and ludicrous comments from the school board that serve to justify our call for an immediate ruling from the 10th District of Appeals.
Earlier this year, the board of education sought to delay the implementation of the Youngstown Plan while the case was being adjudicated. But the appeals court denied that motion.
In addition to the board, the other appellants are the Youngstown Education Association, Ohio Education Association, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Ohio Council 8 and Jane Haggerty, a city schools teacher and district resident.
The legal challenge has not stopped Mohip and the academic distress panel from charting a new course for the long troubled urban district.
Highly qualified individuals have been brought into the central office to assist the CEO in implementing the recovery plan, outstanding principals have been hired, and teachers are in line for a pay raise – if their union agrees to reopen the labor contract.
Unfortunately, the Youngstown Education Association has chosen not to believe Mohip, who has publicly pledged to deal only with the wage issue in the contract.
But other than this hiccup and the constant whining by school board members and other critics resistant to change, the Youngstown School District is on a path to academic recovery.
Mohip and the distress commission have won strong support from the community with their decision to bring back neighborhood schools and to put Chaney and East high schools on an equal footing.
The reconfiguration of the schools has been greeted with enthusiasm by parents and guardians and has received the support of important community organizations such as the local chapter of the NAACP.
In the end, there is just one question residents of the Youngstown School District must answer: What’s in the best interest of the children?
From where we sit, the Youngstown Plan is the last hope for preserving the urban school district and ensuring student success.
If the courts find that HB 70 is unconstitutional, we believe the state will take control of the Youngstown district. It would be justified in doing so.