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Youngstown school board to start search for new member

YOUNGSTOWN — With Barbara Brothers opting not to take her elected seat on the Youngstown school board, the body’s members will decide who will fill the open position.

The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Jan. 14 and “that’s when (a successor) would first be discussed,” said Brenda Kimble, its president.

The board’s reorganizational meeting is Thursday. But it can only elect a president and vice president and other reorganizational matters at that meeting, she said.

When asked how board members will decide who will replace Brothers, who declined to take the seat, Kimble said some “may have people in mind, but we’d have to seek applicants. It could be an old board member. The board members would select someone to replace her to fill her seat.”

The person selected by the school board members would serve until the end of 2021 with an election for the remaining two years of the unexpired four-year term on the ballot that year, under state law.

However, that’s only if the elected board still exists.

The Ohio Supreme Court is determining the constitutionality of a state law that calls for the elected school board to be eliminated.

Brothers submitted a letter last Wednesday to Justin Jennings, the district’s CEO, stating she was “declining” to take the position. Her term was to start today.

In the letter, Brothers wrote the current board “accepts that the Youngstown city schools are failing. They say it is not the Youngstown city school board’s fault and we should look elsewhere to place the blame.” She added: “Neither the board or their community supporters question the system itself and therefore they do not provide leadership in how to address the needs of our students to improve their education and quality of life.”

She wrote that “I, and those who believe as I do, are outnumbered on the present board.”

In response, Kimble said Brothers was “well aware of the thoughts and feelings of the current board as well as those who were seeking new seats and the opinions of the community long before she decided to become a candidate” in the Nov. 5 election. She also said: “Until one actually serves on the board or has conversations with members, or attends board meetings regularly, they cannot have a true understanding of the concerns about our children that board members are faced with.”

Kimble said Brothers, who previously resigned as a member of the district’s Academic Distress Commission, “displays a pattern of walking away from issues entrusted to her by the community and owes an apology to the community for placing her name on a ballot at such a time as this and (then) declining the seat.”

In the Nov. 5 election five candidates ran for four seats.

Tiffany D. Patterson finished first with 22.58 percent, Kimble was second with 21.37 percent, Juanita Walker had 20.16 percent and Brothers got the last spot with 18.21 percent. Incumbent Dario Hunter finished last with 17.68 percent.

House Bill 70, known as the Youngstown Plan, took away local control and put it in the hands of a CEO who runs the district. The law 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 received an overall F grade in September for the fourth straight year.

HB 70 requires the mayor to appoint a five-member board to replace the seven-member elected board, and prohibits him from selecting elected officials.

But in November, the school board and the city agreed to a temporary restraining order to hold off on Mayor Jamael Tito Brown appointing a board and allowing elected members to take office, starting today, as the two sides await a decision from the Ohio Supreme Court on the board’s challenge to the constitutionality of HB 70.

An April 9 conference hearing in the matter is scheduled.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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