Orchids and onions

l ORCHID: To West Branch School District leaders for moving toward difficult — but correct — decisions to find ways to cut costs more than $500,000. The cuts are needed to keep spending in line after the district enrollment dropped by nearly 500 students since 2009-2010 to 1,980 this year.

l ORCHID: To Springfield Local Schools Superintendent Tom Yazvac, named the Ohio Music Education Association’s 2020 Outstanding School Administrator. He was nominated by district music teachers for his enduring support of educational music programs.

l ONION: To the Youngstown Civil Service Commission for not following its own rule requiring specific reasons be listed in documentation when terminating city civil service employees. It was largely that technicality that led a judge this week to vacate the commission’s decision to uphold last year’s firing of Taron Cunningham, Youngstown Community Development Agency director. Mayor Jamael Tito Brown fired Cunningham based on a recommendation from the city’s law director and Cunningham’s then-supervisor that outlined 26 issues and offenses, but because they were not listed in the mayor’s letter, the firing has now been vacated and sent back to the civil service commission

l ORCHID: To area mayors and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan for coming together last week to embrace cooperation and regionalization. A message about the value of cooperation among communities was delivered by Ryan during a meeting of the Mahoning River Corridor Mayors Association. According to Girard Mayor James Melfi, “Almost everyone was in the room” to discuss the future of the community. That cooperative effort goes a long way.

l ORCHID: To students and other donors at Sebring McKinley Junior and Senior High School for hosting a fundraiser that raised $3,367.67 to be donated to Waterloo High School sophomore Brenden Kidikas, who is battling brain cancer. Orchid also to School Resource Officer Brindak and Principal Joe Krumpak, who each agreed to be “slimed” as incentive for donations.

Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods, or ACTION, for hosting an anti-racism community workshop this week in an effort to educate and raise awareness of the issue in our community. More than 250 community leaders, activists, elected officials and others attended this important event.

ORCHID: To 21 Austintown Local School District students who earned honors at the Northeast Ohio Scholastic Art contest held recently at Youngstown State University. Five of them earned gold and silver keys and now will advance to judging on the national level.

ONION: To the judge and special prosecutor for allowing the criminal conviction of former Campbell police Chief Drew W. Rauzan to be sealed and forever closed to public view. Rauzan had been convicted in 2017 of a misdemeanor involving unauthorized use of a law-enforcement-only database while he was chief. While we acknowledge that Rauzan served his sentence, we believe strongly that law enforcement officers should be held to a higher standard and, therefore, we oppose sealing criminal records of officers who break the law.

ORCHID: To the hundreds of baseball fans that turned out this week to Eastwood Mall to participate in a rally to save the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. We hope the huge turnout led by the mall officials and local elected leaders will send a big message to Major League Baseball to rethink the plan to eliminate the Scrappers as a minor league affiliate.

ORCHID: To the Youngstown State University football team and its new coach Doug Phillips. The entire team came together to attend the YSU basketball game Thursday night, cheering the Penguins on to a great victory. What a great way to show support for a fellow team and to start off a new tenure as head coach.


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To lawmakers for passing legislation renaming some bridges and roads in Mahoning County in honor of public servants, law enforcement officials and fallen soldiers. They include: a bridge spanning Interstate 76 on state Route 46 in Canfield Township, renamed “Lewis John Speece Jr. Memorial Bridge” for a Marine Corps World War II veteran; U.S. Route 422 in Coitsville renamed “PFC Ronald J. Puskarcik Memorial Highway” for the U.S. Marine rifleman who died in 1968 in the Vietnam War; a U.S. Route 224 bridge in Canfield Township renamed the “Canfield Armed Forces Bridge”; and a bridge on Herbert Road in Canfield Township renamed as the “Canfield First Responders Bridge.”

ONION: To all of those involved in the ongoing fracas between Liberty in Bloom volunteers and the Liberty Township Board of Trustees. The volunteer group now has decided to dissolve after trustees no longer will allow donations for beautification to be funneled through township accounts. Similar beautification committees in nearby communities tell us they never funneled donation money through their local governments, but rather simply completed Ohio documentation required to operate as a legal nonprofit group. We aren’t sure why this idea was dismissed by Liberty in Bloom. At the end of the day, the big losers are residents and motorists who enjoyed the landscaping provided by volunteers.

ORCHID: To Boardman High School students and staff who honored their first responders this week during a lockdown drill and annual “Legacy Clap Out” to show respect and thank them for what they do. Students lined the halls and cheered for first responders as they walked through. It was the third year the event was held.

ONION: To the motorists involved in a road rage incident last week in Poland Township that apparently started after an incident at the Boardman Walmart. It ended with motorists following the victims, and led to a physical altercation after two people exited their vehicle to kick and pound on the car door and window of another motorist. What has our society come to? Police are giving good advice to stay calm, take a deep breath and don’t engage, if this happens to you. If you are in a parking lot, return to the store or a safe area. If there are immediate signs of threat or danger, call 911.

ORCHID: To Mahoning County Career and Technical Center for unveiling its new firefighter training facility, a longtime vision of former Austintown fire Chief Andy Frost Jr. and former Cardinal Joint Fire District Chief Bob Tieche, both of whom instructed classes formerly held in building hallways. The $750,000 two-story structure unveiled Monday includes a garage for fire trucks and a four-story training tower, according to Mara Banfield, career and technical education director and director of Valley STEM at MCCTC.


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To organizers, donors and supporters of the local statue proposed to mark the historic 1946 handshake of baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson and George “Shotgun” Shuba of Youngstown. It was the first handshake of black and white players on a professional baseball diamond. Additional funding in the form of a $50,000 grant for the project was announced recently from McDonald’s restaurant owners of the Mahoning Valley and Western Pennsylvania. Herb Washington, a local McDonald’s owner and spokesperson, said the grant reflects the organization’s “commitment to the great people of the Valley.” The statue is to be dedicated in 2021 near the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre.

ONION: To Youngstown city officials for adding high-priced parking meters outside Youngstown State University’s Williamson College of Business Administration. Council voted this week to add 18 meters on Phelps Street. We understand the city’s point that this location could be described as the best free parking spaces near the YSU campus. But is it really necessary to now charge $1.50 per hour to park here? That’s the most expensive meter parking in the city. Seems like acting on an opportunity to take advantage of motorists.

ORCHID: To 100 adults who came to Austintown Intermediate School this week to read aloud to students for “World Read Aloud Day.” The whole building was on board for the project, and included teachers, parents, other volunteers and even school district administrators. What a great way to encourage reading among students.

ONION: To Boardman Local Schools for allowing high school seniors to play “Cards Against Humanity,” as part of a school pep rally recently, prompting verbal responses from students making light of the word “holocaust.” Many familiar with the game have described it as an inappropriate adult card game, and even the game’s website describes it as “a party game for horrible people … Cards Against Humanity is as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.” Shame on school officials for getting themselves into this mess.

ORCHID: To Boardman school leaders, however, for reacting quickly to community concerns voiced afterward by seeking additional curriculum on Holocaust subjects. The district reached out to the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation to use the episode as a teaching moment. Schools Superintendent Tim Saxton said it inspired the district to “make things better.” “Everything for us is a learning experience,” he said, noting that additional opportunities are being integrated into the classrooms. A spokeswoman for the local Jewish Federation also called it an “incredible opportunity.” And now some other school districts are inquiring about similar programs. That’s a good job of turning a lemon into lemonade.


Orchids and onions

l ORCHID: To Youngstown City Schools Chief Executive Officer Justin Jennings for calling on the community and the school district staff to give input as the district formulates a strategic plan intended to frame the future of the district for years to come. Voluntary meetings begin next week to seek input.

l ONION: To the Diocese of Youngstown for ousting two top officials at Cardinal Mooney High School, President Mark Oles and Principal Mark Vollmer, effective immediately, but refusing to offer any explanation for the abrupt exit. Bishop George Murry even acknowledged that the sudden change would likely prompt speculation and rumor, yet he insists on keeping the reason a secret, other than to say it resulted from much discussion, review and reflection about what is best for Cardinal Mooney’s students, parents, teachers, staff and many other supporters. If that’s the case, then don’t these students, parents and other folks have a right to know more details about what is going on in their school and in their diocese?

l ORCHID: To 17 people originating from Pakistan, Jordan, Canada, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Yemen, Brazil, Venezuela and Mexico, who celebrated their new American citizenship this week at the Mahoning County Courthouse before Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge Beth Smith. The exuberance and pride were apparent during the celebration — and, obviously, much deserved.

l ONION: To Canfield police Chief Chuck Colucci who, following an internal investigation regarding an inappropriate relationship with his subordinate, was reprimanded recently. It is always the responsibility of a supervisor in any workplace to keep all relationships and communications professional — especially with subordinates. That responsibility is even more critical when it involves our law enforcement officers who must command respect from both their officers and the community.

l ORCHID: To the Simply Slavic organization, which donated $2,500 recently to the Mahoning Valley Tyler History Center. The funds will be used mainly to provide proper and enhanced archival methods for storing various Slavic artifacts, objects and documents that will be donated. They also will be used to acquire such items in order to address the challenge of archive representations of Slavic history for future generations to understand and appreciate the culture.



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