×

Youngstown begins process to create new school board

YOUNGSTOWN — A committee that will select the panel to nominate candidates for the forthcoming mayor-appointed Youngstown Board of Education will meet 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Youngstown Rayen Early College High School Community Room.

It’s the first time in Ohio for such a process to replace an entire elected board.

Critics say that the process would be state-controlled and a suppression of voters’ rights.

The purpose of this panel is to select a minimum of 10 candidates to be considered for the board of education under a provision of Ohio’s House Bill 70, which required a new board be selected after the school district failed to achieve an overall “C” grade this year on the Ohio Report Card. The Youngstown City School District earned “F” grades on each of the last four state report cards.

The nominating panel will consist of two people appointed by Mayor Jamael “Tito” Brown; a district principal selected by a vote of district’s principals; a teacher appointed by the district union; a parent; the chairman of the district’s academic distress commission; and the state superintendent, who will be a non-voting member of the panel during the first two years of its existence.

All candidates shall be residents of the school district and shall hold no elected public office, according to the state.

After receiving the list of potential school board candidates, Brown will have at least 30 days to select five candidates to serve on the school board.

The board members will begin their terms on Jan. 1. Members of the mayor-appointed board will remain in office for at least three years. Afterward, voters will determine whether the system should continue or return to a board system created through the vote of residents.

The Rev. Kenneth Simon, a vocal critic of the 2015’s HB 70, also known as the Youngstown Plan, which created the mechanism allowing the elimination of the current school board, suggested if the next school board is selected through this process, then local control will not exist.

“This will be a state controlled process,” Simon said. “This process is giving the guise of the mayor making the final selection, but the candidates will be weighed towards those chosen by the state superintendent’s designees.”

Brenda Kimble, the board of education’s president, agreed the process is a continuation of what she believes is the state’s effort to suppress voters’ rights.

“State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria has been invited to Youngstown a number of times, but would not come here to discuss HB 70 and the impact it has had on our district,” Kimble said. “We are doing worse on the state report card today than before the state took over, because, in part, the last CEO eliminated our literacy programs.” HB 70 put a chief executive officer in charge of all school district operations, relegating the elected board to an advisory role.

“The board had nothing to do with this and other decisions that have hurt the district and the our children,” Kimble said.

Kimble intends to attend Thursday’s meeting — which might lead to her position being eliminated.

Simon said there will be a meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 21, at New Bethel Baptist Church, 1507 Hillman St., Youngstown, where there will be a discussion of HB 70, and the Ohio Supreme Court case challenging the law filed by the Youngstown Board of Education.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. Oct. 23 in the Montpelier Junior/Senior High School, 1015 E. Brown Road, Montpelier, Ohio. Each side will have 15 minutes to argue its position.

In the meantime, the Ohio Senate still is working to revise HB 154, passed by the Ohio House in the spring. It would eliminate academic distress commissions, as well as the CEO positions in the three school districts now under HB 70 — East Cleveland, Lorain and Youngstown.

The proposed Senate version of HB 154 would direct districts that receive two Fs in a row to enter into contract with a school improvement organization. A plan would be created under the watch of a governor-appointed school transformation board.

If the district still doesn’t improve after another four years, then it would be subject to a takeover. That would require a total of six consecutive Fs; the current system allows for a state takeover after three consecutive Fs.

rsmith@tribtoday.com