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Youngstown mayor gets 19 names for new school board

By RAYMOND L. SMITH

Staff writer

YOUNGSTOWN– The panel nominating candidates for the mayor-appointed school board is sending all 19 names to Mayor Jamael Tito Brown for review, pending verification they currently live within the district’s boundaries.

There are questions about whether one of the potential school board candidates, James Brown, fits all of the qualifications needed for the appointment, because he lives in Campbell, not in the Yougstown city limits.

Brown argues because Campbell students are part of the Youngstown City School District, he is qualified to serve on the board.

“I want to help bring the school district back to self-sufficiency,” Brown said.

He was nominated by parent-volunteer Rikki Queener

Paolo DeMaria, Ohio’s superintendent of public instruction and the chairman of the nominating panel, said it is the board’s understanding the candidates moved forward to the mayor should live within the city limits.

The legislation that controls the nomination of candidates, however, states that “at least two of the candidates shall reside outside of the municipal corporation served by the mayor.”

DeMaria said the panel met on Thursday because it wanted to maintain the schedule of turning names over to the mayor, despite the fact that a Mahoning court is expected to grant a temporary restraining order preventing the appointment of a board until mid-April.

Visiting Judge Thomas Pokorny agreed this week with lawyers for the board of education and the mayor’s office that the appointment should not be made until after the Ohio Supreme Court decides whether House Bill 70 is constitutional. HB 70, which established the law allowing the replacement of the school board, was heard by the Ohio Supreme Court last month.

In the meantime, four people were elected to the Youngstown Board of Education during Tuesday’s election, including two members of the current board. These members will take office in January.

James Brown believes he meets all the qualifications established under the 2015 law. “I was not told that my residency may be a problem until Monday,” he said.

Youngstown schools CEO Justin Jennings, who also serves on the panel recommending possible school board members, said the panel should accept Brown’s and others nominations only on the condition their addresses are verified as being within the school district.

“We are looking a number of the nominees,” Jennings said.

Juanita Walker, nominated by Jennings, said if selected to serve her goal is to make sure that Youngstown district students receive equitable and high quality educations.

“I want to bring to the board a sense of leadership and transparency,” Walker said. “I have the skills to work with people and I want people to see that I can be decisive and I will make the right decisions for the children.”

Andrea Mahone, also a Jennings nominee, previously served on the school board from 2010 to 2014. Mahone suggests if the current school board succeeds in overturning HB 70 through an Ohio Supreme Court decision, the board should work to establish an advisory commission using the talents of the nominees seeking board seats through this panel.

“I would hate to lose the interests of these talented and dedicated residents,” she said.

Tiffany Patterson, a nominee for the board by panelists Germaine Bennett and Thomas DeGenova, and also a winner in Tuesday’s election, said she is against HB 70, but says they have to work under the laws “as they exist today.”

rsmith@tribtoday.com