Y'town, Lorain school board members unite in Columbus to fight HB 70

By Amanda Tonoli



School board members from two Ohio cities united in Columbus on Wednesday to oppose House Bill 70.

Some members of Youngstown and Lorain boards of education were among a group that traveled to Columbus to talk to Ohio legislators Wednesday about how they believe HB 70 is ruining public education.

Commonly referred to as the Youngstown Plan, it was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in July 2015. It allowed Youngstown CEO Krish Mohip and Lorain CEO David Hardy to be put in place. State-appointed academic distress commissions hired the CEOs.

In Youngstown, Mohip has operational, managerial and instructional control. HB 70 put the locally elected board into an advisory capacity.

In related action late Wednesday, state Reps. John Boccieri of Poland, D-59th, and Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstgown, D-58th, said in a press release an amendment was added to Senate Bill 216 to place a moratorium on the creation of academic distress commissions across the state. Reached by phone, Boccieri explained that SB 216 aims to take bureaucracy out of public education.

The amendment does not affect Youngstown City Schools, but would stop further takeovers of public schools across the state.

During the gathering Wednesday afternoon, Youngstown bnoard President Brenda Kimble contended that more than 22 school districts in Ohio are in jeopardy of coming under HB 70, including Trotwood Madison, Warrensville Heights and East Cleveland.

Youngstown board member Tina Cvetkovich said during the gathering: “Maybe things can turn around for all of us [school boards], but the best interest is not being done for our children,” she said.

Tony Dimacchia, Lorain board president, said the gathering in Columbus is inspiring.

“It’s nice to hear our representatives support us and want to rally folks and get some Columbus attention,” he said. “H.B. 70 is not just bad in terms of villainous, but it even passes that borderline. It was proven not to be successful in two areas — Youngstown and Lorain.”

Youngstown City Schools spokeswoman Denise Dick said Dimacchia’s statement is unfounded.

“They have no data backing up what they say. They just don’t like it because they’re not in control anymore,” she said.

The Rev. Ken Simon, leader of a group calling itself the Community Leadership Coalition of Education, said HB 70 is a threat to the public education that everyone’s respective communities are trying to preserve. “It’s beginnings were meant to destroy public education to privatize it all and we must dismantle it,” he said.

Lynette Miller, a concerned Youngstown resident, said: “It’s destruction of public education on purpose.”

“We are here to protest and urge our legislators to call for its repeal,” the Rev. Mr. Simon said. “At the end of the day, we will be the ones left to clean up the mess ....”

During discussions, Esther Chung, legislative aide for state Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko of Richmond Heights, D-25th, questioned what the plan for education would be other than H.B. 70.

The Rev. Mr. Simon said he knows the Youngstown community can produce a plan.

“It’s going to take us coming together and maybe looking at concepts originally introduced in H.B. 70.”

Chung said that the discussions are not falling on deaf ears.

“We understand and we hear you,” she said. “Our democratic colleagues we hear you and we will continue to fight for public education.”

Cvetkovich said H.B. 70 makes it difficult to hold leaders with all of the power accountable.

“The ethical standards of both Lorain and Youngstown [CEOs] are just atrocious and there’s nothing we can do about it,” she said.

Dick said that Cvetkovich’s statement is simply “ridiculous.”

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