Not another appeal on the district’s dime
By Amanda Tonoli
The Youngstown Board of Education will not make another appeal of House Bill 70 on the district’s dime, says school district CEO Krish Mohip.
Mohip said Friday he will not approve the funding for another appeal.
HB 70, commonly referred to as the Youngstown Plan, was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in July 2015. It enabled a state-appointed academic distress commission to hire a CEO to lead the district. The bill gives Mohip complete operational, managerial and instructional control. He refers to the elected school board as an advisory board.
Since July 2015, the district has paid Roth, Blair, Roberts, Strasfeld and Lodge $323,363. That amount includes spending before Mohip’s arrival in the district. Of that, the district paid the same firm about $70,000 in fiscal year 2017. The spending cannot be broken down by case; therefore, it cannot be determined how much money went specifically to fighting HB 70, said district spokeswoman Denise Dick.
Mohip’s edict to stop legal funds to the school board comes after Franklin County Common Pleas Court’s denial of a board appeal Oct. 11. The appeal was about the denial of an injunction to stop HB 70.
Other parties to the original injunction include the Ohio Education Association, Youngstown Education Association, city schools teacher Jane Haggerty, AFSCME Ohio Council 8 and the AFL-CIO.
School board President Brenda Kimble already has said the board of education would file another appeal.
Mohip, however, signed a resolution Friday halting district funding of these types of lawsuits, or any legal services that will “hinder the success of” his strategic plan for the district.
The resolution states: “Whereas, now that the board had its ‘day in court,’ and Judge [Jenifer] French clearly upheld the CEO statute and specifically noted the public policy benefits of HB 70, I will honor Judge French’s decision that continuing with the CEO model is in the best interests of our students.”
If the school board wants to continue to be a part of an appeal, it will need another source of funding, not from the district itself.
Other parties to the lawsuit may continue to appeal HB 70.
Academic Distress Commission President Brian Benyo said Mohip is within his rights and authority to determine where the district is going in terms of its spending.
Kimble said the board will not be stopped.
“We have no intention of not pursuing this case, as it violates the state constitution by redirecting public dollars to private entities and it suppresses voters’ rights,” she said.
Kimble said Mohip needs more funding for professional development and decided to make a cut where the board’s legal matters were concerned.
About $4 million was spent on professional development for teachers for their classrooms in fiscal year 2017. The total includes travel, materials, benefits, wages, the cost of training and more, according to school district administration.
“If we lose this district, our kids lose,” Kimble said. “We will do whatever is necessary.”
Regardless of any appeal, Mohip said he will continue to focus on transforming the academically struggling district.
“I would encourage the school board to work with me and my team to do what’s best for the children of this district,” said Mohip. “With or without their support, we are putting our students first and turning this district around.”