Failing grades prompt new Youngstown School Board to be appointed
The nominating panel that will name candidates to be appointed to the new Youngstown School Board of Education met Thursday evening for the first time.
They introduced themselves and talked about what criteria they will look for in candidates who could lead the school district into the future.
The group convened after years of failing grades for the district triggered a provision of a controversial state law that says the existing and elected board should be thrown out.
21 News wanted to know what qualifies a candidate for the new Youngstown Board of Education, and whether it means your vote for school board next month during the November elections will even count.
Because of Ohio House Bill 70, also known as the "Youngstown Plan," the idea of appointing a new school board in Youngstown and throwing out the old one is unchartered territory.
However, as 21 News has been reporting, this is the first step towards making that change.
As the group met at the West Wood Street building, the nomination panel sat in place of Youngstown's elected school board and addressed the small audience.
There will be eight members on the nominating panel, but only seven will vote. The chairperson of the group from the State Board of Education is a non-voting member:
Paolo DeMaria (non-voting), State Superintendent, Ohio Dept. of Ed.
Germaine Bennett, Former Educator in District for 37 years
Thomas DeGenova, Retired Mahoning Co. Sheriff's Deputy
Jeremy Batchelor, East High School Principal
Jane Haggerty, Teacher, Youngstown Education Association Rep.
Rikki Queener, Mother of Two Youngstown School Students
John Richard, Chair - Youngstown Academic Distress Commission
Justin Jennings, (the current CEO of the Youngstown School District)
"For my role, I was actually voted amongst my colleagues the principals and so I felt like it was my duty to step up and be their voice on this so hopefully have some folks that are going to work with us, to help us help students achieve," Batchelor said.
The nominating panel plans to meet again on November 7th in a public setting, and each member will name potential candidates to the school board.
The panel will vote on at least ten names that will be presented to Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown on November 8th.
Mayor Brown will have at least 30 days to pick five people as the "newly" appointed Youngstown Board of Education.
Out of the five selected, one person will be chosen as the Chairperson.
The new board will begin serving on January first.
An interesting note as well, Mayor Brown also has the authority to remove someone from the newly appointed school board but has to consult the nominating panel.
This is all happening because the Youngstown School District has earned "Fs" on at least its last four state report cards.
Anyone nominated as a potential candidate must live in the city of Youngstown. However, the panel will also have to name at least two people to the list who reside in the Youngstown School District but live outside of the municipality.
Those who can be nominated include people from Boardman Township, Campbell, and Coitsville.
Potential candidates also can not currently hold any elected office of any kind but can be someone is who actually running for an elected office in November.
The nominating panel also said at least two of the potential candidates must have an education finance and education management background.
When 21 News asked Paolo DeMaria, the State Superintendent with the Ohio Department of Education, why this process was necessary since the Board of Education no longer has any authority under the Chief Operating Officer, he said it's the law.
DeMaria also said keep in mind that Cleveland's Board of Education was also appointed by the mayor there.
"This is not the first example of a mayoral control model as you know Cleveland has mayoral control and has had mayoral control for a long time. So I'm assuming that whoever wrote this law felt like that might be an interesting or a meaningful insertion into this statute at this particular point in the process," said DeMaria.
However, popular Youngstown Pastor and Activist Reverend Kenneth Simon said it's not the Board of Education that should be replaced, but the "state" that should be taken out of the equation.
Reverend Simon said since 2010, when the State of Ohio took control of the Youngstown School District, they have had a failing grade and said it's unfair to take away local control.
"The F we got is a result of the state's control and so they want to oust the board for the F's when we should be ousting the state for the F's," explained Simon.
Reverend Simon plans to hold a forum on the issue at New Bethel Baptist Church in Youngstown on October 21st at 6 p.m.