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Youngstown school election to occur even though board is being eliminated

YOUNGSTOWN — Even though a state law will eliminate the existing Youngstown Board of Education, Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains said the Nov. 5 election will occur.

“It’s not going to stop the election,” Gains said. “It will go forward. But whether those individuals elected can serve, that’s another issue. Whether the board can serve is an entirely different question to be determined post-election.”

He added, “What a mess.”

The county board of elections will conduct the election and also certify the results, Gains said.

Under House Bill 70, referred to as the Youngstown Plan and signed into law in 2015, academically failing school districts were taken over by the state. Youngstown was the first, followed later by East Cleveland and Lorain. The General Assembly in July passed a moratorium on having other poor-performing districts lose local control.

HB 70 also requires the state superintendent to convene a nominating panel within 30 days if a school district under state control doesn’t receive an overall grade of C or higher in its fourth year. Youngstown received an overall F grade this year — the fourth year in a row.

The panel will consist of two people appointed by the mayor, a district principal selected by a vote of the district’s principals, a teacher appointed by the teachers’ union, a parent of a student at the district appointed by a parent-teacher assocation or similiar organization, the head of the district’s Academic Distress Commission, the district’s CEO, and the state superintendent with the latter serving as chairman and as a nonvoting member, under HB 70.

The panel has up to 30 days after it is formed to nominate 10 candidates for appointment to the school board. All candidates must be residents of the school district and cannot hold an elected office.

After that, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown will have up to 30 days to select five members from among the 10 finalists and those five will replace the existing school board effective Jan. 1.

The law states that during the general election held in November of the first even-numbered year at least three years after the new board is chosen, voters will decide on a referendum to allow the mayor to continue to appoint members.

If a majority of voters agree, the mayor would appoint a new board the following July 1 with three members having four-year terms and two having two-year terms. After that, all terms would be four years.

If a majority rejects the referendum, a new board would be elected by voters during the next odd-year November election with three serving four-year terms and two serving two-year terms.

Joyce Kale-Pesta, board of elections director, said some school board candidates on the Nov. 5 ballot have asked about the election and whether they should withdraw.

As for the law, Kale-Pesta said, “It makes no sense. The school board hasn’t made decisions for several years. I don’t know why they’re getting fired. It’s the CEO making the decision. It doesn’t seem fair to fire the school board. It’s crazy.”

Four of the seven seats on the school board are on the fall ballot.

Michael Murphy and Corrine Sanderson are not seeking re-election.

Incumbents Brenda Kimble and Dario Hunter are on the ballot along with Barbara Brothers, Tiffany D. Patterson, Juanita Walker and Patrick O’Leary. Nia Simms is running as a write-in.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com