CLCE airs concerns about Youngstown school district
By Amanda Tonoli
Local leaders aired concerns about the future of Youngstown City Schools under House Bill 70 during a Community Leadership Coalition on Education news conference.
The coalition is composed of local community activists.
The Rev. Kenneth Simon, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church and coalition member, said Thursday night the group has concerns as to “what has unfolded [under HB 70] in the last two years.”
HB 70, also 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 CEO Krish Mohip to lead the district. The bill gives Mohip complete operational, managerial and instructional control. Mohip refers to the elected board of education as an advisory panel.
State. Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, joined Simon in his concerns, calling HB 70 an “utter failure and a disaster.”
“What HB 70 has produced is ethical lapses, no-bid contracts, huge administrative salaries and concern and anxiety and resignation of most of the members of the Academic Distress Commission,” she said.
Last March, three ADC members resigned in a matter of a few days.
“What it [HB 70] has not produced is a better education for our kids,” Lepore-Hagan continued.
She referenced the failing state report card which showed the district earned an overall F grade, made up of two D’s and four F’s.
Larry Ellis, Youngstown Education Association teachers’ union president, said during the CEO’s reign, grades have actually declined in areas that were previously improving.
Another result of HB 70, the Rev. Mr. Simon said, is zero accountability to taxpayers, parents, concerned citizens and the elected school board.
“The community has no power or authority to change course in this school system,” he said.
Mr. Simon also discussed what he described as a dismal financial state the district is in due to the CEO’s spending.
“Prior to the CEO, the district had over a $23 million surplus,” he said. “Two and a half years later it is nearing a deficit.”
Mr. Simon said a comparison of the budget before Mohip and during his tenure shows there is $8 million less being spent in the classroom and more money spent on personnel with “no direct result classroom performance” connection.
As far as personnel, Mr. Simon said the CEO created 32 positions and gave out six-figure salaries, inflating money spent on administration.
“Before [Mohip], only one person made a six-figure salary, and that was the superintendent,” Simon said. “I’m concerned about how the money is being spent and how children are not being educated.”
Brenda Kimble, board of education president, said the budget shows $11 million unaccounted for and at least $2 million spent on attorney fees alone.
The coalition, Mr. Simon said, is adamantly opposed to the Youngstown Plan or any other plan that will give all the authority to one person tasked with running the school district.
Mohip, who makes an annual salary of $170,000, is leaving when his contract expires July 31. The ADC has contracted a company to provide a search for a new CEO.