New board must resolve old challenges in A’town
Even the most wishful thinkers and eternal optimists would have had a hard time making the case that last week’s election for school board in Austintown could ever have wiped out the controversy and dissension that have permeated Mahoning County’s second-largest school district for several years now.
Yes, voters elected two fresh faces and one incumbent to the five-member policy-making panel for the coming four years. But no, the new makeup of the board of education will not put a lid on the sometimes acrimonious turmoil over the district’s open-enrollment policy and its administrative leadership.
That’s because the new board in many respects will resemble the old. In her re-election to a third term, Kathy Mock likely will continue to ally herself with five-decade incumbent Dr. David Ritchie in generally supporting the superintendent and his recommendations on the open-enrollment policy, which brought 725 additional students into the district this school year.
In her election to a first term, Robin Krempasky, a participant in the Facebook group known as “Flip the Austintown Board of Education,” likely will align herself with incumbent Harold Porter, who was the sole no vote last year in the decision to renew the superintendent’s contract through June 2020.
The other winner and top vote getter, Don Sherwood, was endorsed by “Flip the Board,” but he did not actively align himself with the group. The popular 15-year member of the Austintown Touchdown Club, however, does share concerns over open enrollment and also calls for closer evaluation of top district leadership.
As a result, even though the 18,207 votes cast in the school board race failed to totally flip the board as organizers of the campaign had hoped, they do suggest that the issues that propelled the group will not disappear anytime soon.
GET PULSE OF DISTRICT
Toward reducing such lingering tensions, we would encourage the new board to address early on and head on the 800-pound gorillas in the room – open enrollment and Superintendent Vince Colaluca. They can do so by working to get an accurate pulse of the community and sponsoring forums in the school district for students, parents, teachers and other district residents and taxpayers to air their concerns over current practices and offer suggestions for best resolving them.
As for the superintendent, it would be foolhardy and fiscally irresponsible to buy out his relatively new three-year contract. As for open enrollment, all involved must realize the greater the downsizing of the program, the greater the impact could likely hit the pocketbooks of district taxpayers. After all, the district collects thousands of dollars for each open-enrollment student it accepts.
In pursuit of mutually acceptable solutions, we also hope all board members pledge to work together constructively, agree to disagree and be receptive to compromises. Based on our editorial endorsement interviews, Sherwood, Krempasky and Mock each struck us as reasonable, mature adults capable of acting cooperatively toward achieving their one overarching mutual goal of improving the academic climate for all students who attend Austintown schools.