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Newly elected school board ready to work

YOUNGSTOWN — The four candidates elected to the Youngstown school board say they’re ready to get to work even though the future of the body is uncertain.

There were five candidates on the ballot for four board seats.

Tiffany D. Patterson finished first with 22 percent of the vote, followed by current board President Brenda Kimble with 21 percent, Juanita Walker with 20 percent and Barbara Brothers with 18 percent. Dario Hunter, who was elected to a board seat during a write-in campaign four years ago, finished last. His existing term expires Dec. 31.

A state law calls for the seven-member elected board to be replaced by a five-member board appointed by Mayor Jamael Tito Brown.

But on Wednesday, a day after the election, the school board and the city agreed to a temporary restraining order in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to hold off on Brown appointing a new board. It allows the elected board members to take office Jan. 1 and hold the seats — at least temporarily.

Both sides agreed to return to the courtroom in April as they await the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of House Bill 70, known as the Youngstown Plan, that takes away local control and puts it in the hands of a CEO who runs the district.

The bill also calls for school districts under state control to dissolve their school boards if they don’t get an overall grade on the state report card of C or higher in the fourth year after three failing years. Youngstown in September received an overall F grade for the fourth straight year, though the school board’s attorney argued the September report card was the third and not the fourth year the district has been subject to that provision.

The state’s high court has indicated it could decide in three to six months.

All of the board members-elect said they oppose HB 70.

“I’m excited and ready to get to work,” Patterson said. “I hate to have to go through this route.”

She was among 20 finalists named Wednesday, a few hours before the TRO agreement, by a panel recommending candidates to Brown.

“If I’m not chosen I still want to help in any way I can,” Patterson said. “It’s awesome that I was nominated.”

Brothers, who also made the top 20, said, “I’m happy I get to serve the city and most of all the city’s children.”

Brothers said she didn’t campaign, but remained on the ballot in case HB 70 is overturned.

Kimble also said she didn’t campaign because of the recent death of her mother.

“I may have won a seat that I might not be able to hold,” she said. “The decision of voters may have been flushed down the toilet. Hopefully, we can regain our system back. Local control is important and voters should be allowed to decide who serves them.”

Under the state law, elected officials — including current board members such as Kimble — would be prohibited from being appointed by Brown.

Walker, who was not among the 20 finalists recommended to Brown, said: “I’m excited I was able to win a seat on the school board. I always believe in local control. We should allow the people to have the right to vote.”

dskolnick@tribtoday.com