Get your orange ribbons to support schools plan

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Backers of Youngstown City Schools prepared to “paint” Youngstown with nearly 800 orange ribbons to show support for the transforming school district. The ribbons will be free and available at district schools soon.

“We know you’re happy, [and] we know you support us. Just let us see it,” said district CEO Krish Mohip.

The “All Out Orange” campaign seeks to engage the community around the school district. The group includes community and business leaders, parents, educators, clergy, representatives of nonprofit organizations and members of the public who want to see the school district progress and improve.

Penny Wells, director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past and one of the campaign coordinators, said the color orange was selected because it represents perseverance and achievement.

“We are advocating the new school plan,” Wells said. “With all the transitions, we decided we wanted to advocate, communicate and help the transition. ... We are supporting the new plan and people need supported.”

Parent Megan Mercado said making and wearing orange ribbons is a positive representation of attitudes in the district.

“We need support and backing in a district that needs backed badly,” she said. “By wearing orange ribbons, we are advocating for kids even if all you do is put on an orange ribbon.”

Mohip was put in place by House Bill 70, which was signed into law in July 2015 by Gov. John Kasich. The law allows a state-appointed academic distress commission to step in to oversee school districts after three consecutive years of failing grades on state report cards. The commission also has the authority to hire a CEO to lead a school district.

The state-appointed commission hired Mohip as CEO of the Youngstown City Schools in June 2016. The bill gives Mohip complete operational, managerial and instructional control of the district.

The CEO said his hope is for people all over the country to wear orange ribbons to support the city schools.

“I’ve been telling principals to support Youngstown wherever they are,” Mohip said.

Mohip also is providing the opportunity to board of education members to show support for the district.

“At every meeting we have ribbons available to give board members the chance to support this district,” he said.

Board of Education President Brenda Kimble said the campaign is all a game.

“I am sick of people using our personal people and our staff for their own gain,” she said. “Why not do something like this to get donations to help implement programs for education?”

Kimble said she would like to see a campaign that more directly helps students instead of one that helps “some scandalous personal causes.”

“This is just another smokescreen to cloud folks’ minds as to what’s going on in this district,” Kimble said. “This is another game that is playing with our kids and I don’t appreciate it.”

Mohip refers to the elected school board as an advisory panel.

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