By Amanda Tonoli
After two Academic Distress Commission resignations and Youngstown City Schools’ CEO becoming a finalist for a superintendent position in Boulder, Colo., the Rev. Kenneth Simon, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church and Community Leaders Coalition on Education member, said defeating House Bill 70 – not the CEO – is the coalition’s goal.
The coalition is composed of local community activists.
“If or when [city schools CEO Krish Mohip] leaves this district [the state will] bring somebody else in to carry out the agenda the architects of HB 70 intended in the first place, and that person could be 10 times worse,” the Rev. Mr. Simon said during Tuesday evening’s Youngstown City School Board of Education House Bill 70 Committee Community Meeting at New Bethel. “It’s not about getting rid of a person, but getting rid of a piece of legislation that is evil and is modern-day slavery.”
HB 70, enacted in October 2015, put the current academic distress commission in place overseeing the school district CEO.
In addition, HB 70 gives the CEO power to close schools and reopen them as charter schools or permanently close a school if the district does not get out of academic emergency.
Dennis Kucinich, a Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate, encouraged meeting attendees to join the fight to defeat or reverse the “anti democratic” HB 70 through legal action or by petition.
“The CEO is not immune,” Kucinich said. “If you get 2,040 signatures, put him on trial in a court of common pleas, then we’ll see how high and mighty that CEO is.”
Brenda Kimble, Youngstown school board president, said she has a problem with the law’s high-and-mighty attitude.
“HB 70 is not good for any school district in any school because there is no transparency in what that one person [CEO] can do,” she said.
Representatives from Lorain City Schools board attended the meeting. Lorain schools are also under the auspices of HB 70.
Tony Dimacchia, Lorain board president, said, in all, HB 70 is bad.
“It is a bad bill,” he said. “It is horrible for children and is taking control away [from voters]. It is a classic abuse of power, and the only way we can change this law is to vote the people out that put this law in place.”
Larry Ellis, president of Youngstown Education Association teachers union, encouraged attendees to “reach beyond these walls” and gather community support to help fight privatizing education.
“We want to see public education survive,” he said.
Stephanie Dodd, state board of education member, echoed Ellis’ sentiment.
“Nobody should be profiting at the expense of our children,” Dodd said. “We need new public leaders who support public education. ... This is not how democracy works. This is bad public policy.”