Truce reached over makeup of Youngstown school board

YOUNGSTOWN — Mayor Jamael Tito Brown will not seek to replace members of the elected school board before January 2023 because of a memorandum of understanding hammered out between the two sides and voted on by the Youngstown Board of Education on Tuesday.

It previously was expected that under Ohio House Bill 70, the mayor would have had the authority to replace current school board members in January, because the school district received “F” grades on four consecutive state report cards.

The school board in November filed a complaint in Mahoning County Common Pleas court attempting to stop the mayoral appointment of a new board.

During a Nov. 6 hearing before visiting Judge Thomas Pokorny, attorneys representing the school board and the mayor’s office agreed on a temporary injunction stopping the mayor from appointing a new board until after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of the 2015 law.

On May 13, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled against the school board’s arguments against HB 70, stating the law was indeed constitutional in its implementation.

However, according to the agreement, because the law in which the academic distress commission and the chief executive officer positions did not become fully effective until 2016-17 school year, that should be considered the first year report card grades are counted.

The subsequent state report card grades were in the 2017-18 and the 2018-19 school years, according to the agreement. The mayor is not given the authority to replace school board members until after the fourth school year in which the district receives an “F” grade.

Because Ohio schools were closed by the Ohio Department of Health in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic and districts have been prohibited from providing ratings for overall grade for the 2019-20 school year, the fourth report card has not been issued, according to the agreement.

There will be no state report card issued during the 2020-21 school year, according to the Department of Education. Thus the fourth year the law could apply will be the 2021-22 school year.

The earliest the mayor could exercise the authority to replace the board of education will be Jan. 1, 2023, if the district receives an overall “F” on the report card the year prior.

Because of the agreement, the school board voluntarily dismissed a complaint in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to stop the mayor from replacing the current board members.

Also during the meeting, several board members questioned whether they should support renewal of a levy that raises more than $5 million a year. The current levy ends in December.

Board members Ronald Shadd, Brenda Kimble, Jacqueline Adair, Jerome Williams and Tina Cvetkovich each suggested that CEO Justin Jennings should be held more accountable for the spending of funds before the levy is passed.

Shadd argued that based on information in the five-year forecast, the district will be in deficit regardless if the renewal is passed or not.

Jennings should be required to present to the school board and to Youngstown residents budgets that will detail how he plans to keep the district out of deficit spending, Shadd said.



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