Youngstown School Board responds to letters from Rulli, McNally calling for leadership change
The Youngstown City School Board has responded after two Ohio leaders questioned board leadership and demanded an end to the Youngstown City Schools strike after seeing little movement in over three weeks of negotiations.
Senator Michael Rulli sent a terse statement to the Youngstown Board of Education that called for the resignation of the school superintendent Jeremy Batchelor after only a few months on the job, citing the senator's lack of confidence of Batchelor's ability to lead the district.
Another letter was sent to the board from State Representative Lauren McNally (OH-59), who questioned the board and it's leadership's ability to move the district forward.
Friday afternoon, a statement was issued by the school board firing back at the two lawmakers, reading in part "We are not impressed with the support, or lack thereof, that we have received at the state level. Youngstown is currently fighting for our lives against those who have made it their mission to destroy this district."
The sparring comes amidst state report cards that show Youngstown City Schools ranking among the lowest in Mahoning County, earning one star achievenment rating and scoring only 48.7% percent of the report card's 108.8 achievable points. Youngstown was also the worst in the County in chronic absenteeism, with a 59.3% chronic absenteeism rate. The overall rating for the distric was 2.5 stars.
21 News reached out to YCSD spokeswoman Stacy Quinones to see who in specific the board believes "have made it their mission to destroy this district."
She replied that the board was referring to HB 70, which allowed the creation of an Academic Distress Commission which gave appointed CEOs broad control over school districts without the approval of the local school board.
The terse response from the board continued to levy specific questions to each lawmaker.
"Senator Rulli, have you reached out to the Board or Mr. Batchelor to have dialogue? Rep. McNally, have you contacted Mr. Batchelor directly? How do you form an informed decision without ever hearing from both parties?"
The Board further expressed they "have no intention of firing Mr. Batchelor or asking for his resignation. The Board has complete confidence in our leadership team, and Mr. Batchelor has our support 100%."
Youngstown School Board Member Juanita Walker also issued a statement, which expresses her continued support for Batchelor as Superintendent and stands by his initial appointment.
"I stand behind the decision that was made when extending and hiring Mr. Batchelor for the job...The decision to hire was a good one. He's a proponent of growth and achievement," Walker wrote.
Negotiations resumed on Friday between the district and the YEA after there were no scheduled talks on Thursday.
Both letters and the statements from the board and Juanita Walker are included in full below.
Letter from Senator Rulli:
"The ongoing Youngstown teachers strike shows no signs of concluding, and the Youngstown community continues to question the leadership of Superintendent Jeremy Bachelor.
Under his management, there has repeatedly been postponed meetings with Youngstown teachers' union representatives, and he has been reluctant to respond to their proposals.
My confidence in Superintendent Jeremy Bachelor's ability to lead the Youngstown School District has dwindled, and it is in the best interest of the Youngstown community for him to resign.
New and effective leadership is required to rebuild the trust of both the staff and the community in order to return our schoolchildren to the classroom."
Letter from Rep. McNally:
"Dear Members of the Youngstown Board of Education,
On behalf of the people of Ohio's 59th district, I am writing to express my concerns related to the ongoing teachers strike. Resolving this stalemate, and strike which begun on August 23rd, requires leadership at every level.
As elected members of our community, you are the caretakers of our children's public education and the voice of parents. School districts are required to be open for a minimum of 910-1,001 hours of instruction, dependent on grade level, during each academic year. Today marks the 16th day of lost in-person learning for our scholars, and a significant overall loss in total instructional hours this year.
Disappointingly, and based off all publicly available information, current negotiations do not seem to be moving forward. The work needed to preserve our children's education will go beyond the conclusion of this stalemate. I ask this Board: do you feel confident that the current leadership is best suited to work with all valuable stakeholders in ensuring a path forward for Youngstown's kids, and that this leadership will work both during negotiations and throughout the remainder of the academic year toward the best outcomes for Youngstown students? I have serious concerns with whether this is true.
As Board members you possess the power to create a leadership structure that best supports Youngstown students. I strongly urge you to exercise the authority necessary to give our kids the future they deserve."
Statement from the Youngstown City School Board:
"The YCS Board received the letters, and we are not impressed with the support, or lack thereof, that we have received at the state level. Youngstown is currently fighting for our lives against those who have made it their mission to destroy this district.
Rep. McNally informed us that Sen. Rulli will not support the bill she and Rep. Juanita Brent are proposing to demolish the Academic Distress Commission as long as Mr. Jeremy Batchelor is Superintendent. We would like to know how you, Senator Rulli, got to this point?
Have you attempted to call anyone from our negotiating team to get the information right from the people directly involved?
Senator Rulli, have you reached out to the Board or Mr. Batchelor to have dialogue? Rep. McNally, have you contacted Mr. Batchelor directly? How do you form an informed decision without ever hearing from both parties?
As elected officials, you are supposed to put the needs of your constituents above personal preferences. Both letters seem to suggest that you have no faith in our leadership with no substantial reasoning.
At a time when we should be receiving support from our state lawmakers, it seems we are being undermined by those whom we voted into office.
We are currently focusing on getting our scholars and teachers back in the classrooms -- that is our number one goal.
So, to answer your question, at this time, we have no intention of firing Mr. Batchelor or asking for his resignation. The Board has complete confidence in our leadership team, and Mr. Batchelor has our support 100%."
Statement from YCS Board Member Juanita Walker:
"I stand behind the decision that was made when extending and hiring Mr. Batchelor for the job; when I make a decision, I make a decision based on all people and not just a person/s or group. When you look at the strides that have been made and the continuing efforts to bridge the gap that's been in this district for years, the decision to hire was a good one. He's a proponent of growth and achievement. His professionalism and understanding of what is needed to tackle the issues that arrive is critical in the climate we see now. Consistency, transparency, and productive leadership(which includes our teachers) are what the district wants and needs, and that’s what we’re trying to do.
An option was given not to strike and continue negotiations until an agreement is made, but it was rejected."
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the Youngstown overall rating of 2.5 stars. The district received a 1-star on achievement and early literacy, and two-stars on progress and graduation.