The Youngstown City School District received $78 million in 2021 and 2022 from the Federal government to help the schools recover from the learning setbacks brought on by the pandemic. This one-in-a-lifetime infusion of cash gave the troubled district an opportunity to use the money to help the students and stabilize the future of the district.

But now, the Ohio auditor says the district needs to make drastic changes ahead of its nearly $17 million deficit by 2028. 

So, where did the money go, and what did the district get in return?

In this Watchdog report, 21 News follows up on the district’s spending we reported on last year, where we found millions of dollars that were wasted on projects that went nowhere, didn’t work, or for COVID tests, which a source of knowledge of the situation said that approximately 5 percent of the purchased tests ended up in the trash, an estimated $184,000 loss.

Youngstown is one of three districts in the state that was taken over by the state after being assessed as an academically distressed district and placed under state control in 2016.

With the district now facing a large deficit, we take a look at services the district has purchased while under a state-approved CEO model that gave the district leader total control of spending without input from the school board, during the time of former state-appointed CEO and superintendent Justin Jennings from 2019 through 2023, and current superintendent Jeremy Batchelor through early 2024.

The services purchased by the district come from either contracts, purchase orders, or disbursement sheets from the district. The services the district received for the funds also come from the same documents or the company’s websites stating what each of the businesses offers, and regional businesses or those with Valley ties list who owns the business as well.

The breakdown of spending shows how the district spent some of its money – or made partial payments – some of which were paid for by the federally funded $78-million pandemic recovery money, known as elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds or ESSER. Several of the contracts the district entered into were multiple-year contracts, some with options of up to a 10-year extension unless canceled by either party.

Here’s what we found. 

Nearly $32 million went for services YCSD purchased; some were in response to the pandemic, while some funds went to repairs of district buildings. 

The district spent nearly $22 million on wellness care, including physical and mental health care. The district also spent nearly $8.2 million on professional development for the district leaders and some teachers, plus another $7 million for workshops and programs for students and administrators, ranging from professional development for school administrators and speakers to a horseback riding development session for staff and students.

The district also purchased some new vehicles, technology, and education software.

This is not a comprehensive listing of all funds spent in this time but a glimpse at where the district chose to spend some of its ESSER and general fund money since 2019, broken down by categories and the total amount of purchased services in each category.

It's important to note that we have no information to indicate that any of these companies have violated any rules, laws or ethical boundaries. The purpose of this story is simply to point out how the Youngstown School District spent money in the years leading up to it's projected deficit to create a more complete picture of where the money went.  It's unclear what connection, if any, FBI raids earlier this year seeking information regarding potential "kickbacks" relating to contracts involving federal money spent by the district have to any of these contracts. QuickMed's Liberty headquarters and the home of its CEO and founder, Lena Esmail, were conducted on the same day as the searches of the school district

Here are the spending by categories we placed each into, followed by the total purchased in each area. A few of the contracts noted may have an editor's note indicating services were not provided to YCSD, but the district handles other schools' funds.

SERVICES - $31,951,013.98

  • Gardiner Service Company - $12,470,082.56: A Solon, Ohio-based company with a branch office in Boardman, provides HVAC systems, boilers, chillers and repairs, lighting projects for the district, yearly service agreements and supplies. Owned by Todd Barnhart
  • SES, Inc. (Supplemental Educational Services, Inc.) - $7,925,527.83: A Canfield-based company, president is Wendy Richards. The company provides supplemental educational services to at-risk, low-achieving students in Mahoning, Trumbull, and Columbiana counties. Paperwork with the district lists Title 1 work, a Federal Aid program that provides funding for supplemental instruction for qualifying students. The district funded an additional $2,253,845.61 in 2018 with SES, Inc. (Editor's note: Services were for other schools, such as parochial/community/charter, but the district handles the funds).
  • Motz Group  - $7,665,000: Cincinnati-based company installed sports turf for district
  • HR Upshot - $850,000: An Atlanta-based company, used in 2021. Development service for diversity, equity and inclusion strategy.
  • Community Bus Services - $843,150.56: Services provided from Nov. 2021 through June 2022. The business provides school districts with school transportation services in Ohio, including drivers, substitute drivers, and bus service for summer school.
  • Duro-Last Inc. - $518,367.55: National commercial roofing systems company
  • Murphy Contracting Company - $434,649: Youngstown-based general contractor, the owner is Michael Gentile Sr.
  • PP&A - $385,758.20: Atlanta-based personal payroll and accounting service, used from 2020 to Oct. 2022, that was canceled by the district over compatibility issues.
  • TEMA Roofing Services - $301,038: A Girard-based company that provided roof maintenance plans and roof repairs to district buildings. Owned by Margaret and Thomas Froelich Jr. 
  • Shiffler Equipment Sales - $151,226: Chardon OH. Replacement, maintenance parts and equipment for school chairs, tables, bleachers, playground equipment, restrooms and classrooms. Mark Lewis is president and CEO.
  • Gault Heating Inc. -  $116,055: Mahoning Valley, Heating and Cooling service provider, owner Glenn Gault. (Editor's note: Services were for other schools, such as parochial/community/charter, but the district handles the funds).
  • Four Seasons Painting - $75,900: A Boardman-based painting contractor owned by Timothy Busalaki.
  • Cleland Bros. Moving - $73,778.75: Boardman-based moving company, Michael Cleland owner.
  • The Ohio Floor Company - $69,900: An Ohio-based sports and residential flooring company.
  • Contagion Clean  - $41,321.07: A Poland-based sanitation and disinfection company, President Dr. Robert Simerlink and co-owner Dan Welsh. (Editor's note: Services were for other schools, such as parochial/community/charter, but the district handles the funds).
  •  Parkland Ventures  - $29,259.46: Youngstown-based company, provided desk shields for desks. Company owned by Herb Washington. 

 WELLNESS CARE - $21,963,814.35 

  • Quick Med Urgent Care - $16,605,365.86: Youngstown-based company. The district paid Quick Med Urgent Care $11,562,937.53 with Federal pandemic funds through February of 2023, and $5,042,428.33 in the last year. The company offers healthcare and wellness services, including the YOUCare clinics in East, McGuffey, P. Ross Berry. Other contracts and services paid for include the COVID crisis plan and tests, Dental RV program, Mental Health Care Services, Audiology RV program, Ophthalmology program, athletic training services agreement, Behavior Analysis Services. The registered owner of Quick Med Urgent Care LLC is Lena Esmail; Quick Med Youngstown, Cortland and Quick Med Telemed are registered by Faroq Moonda. 
  • Pure Living LLC - $3,791,733.21: A Canfield business is owned by Faroq Moonda that provided HEPA bus-mounted air filtration and purification units, medical-grade HEPA H13 purifier, and replacement filters.
  • The Red Zone - $1,230,285: Youngstown-based business helping students with education/social development and counseling for mental disorders or addiction. The owner is Maurice Clarett. 
  • Release And Unleash Inc. - $202,750: Youngstown-based company. Parent enrichment workshops for the district. The district also purchased Kristen Biggs, a self-published author, motivational speaker, and public speaker on gun violence and healing, a special speaker presentation, books and candles for a Parent YOU ceremony. 
  • Maxim Healthcare Services - $133,680.28: National-based, local Poland branch offering healthcare services, pediatrics, autism, adult, and private nursing services


  • Insight Public Sector Inc. - $5,016,617.44: An Arizona-based community-based wi-fi system that was never implemented.
  • CDW G Computer Center, Inc. - $1,956,461.04: National hardware and technology company
  • Empower Learning - $1,590,943.94: An Indiana-based company offering education technology company that offers products, consulting, and services
  • Verizon Wireless - $433,849.85: provide hotspots, monthly wi-fi service to students with no internet during remote learning from July 2021 through Aug. 2022
  • Assessment Technologies - $277,209.17: A division of Easy Graphics Corp, based in Wickliffe, OH., provides electronic educational aids for the classroom.
  • G & G, Inc. - $247,861.05: Westlake, OH. Educational technology products such as 3D printers, computers, sound systems. (Editor's note: Services were for other schools, such as parochial/community/charter, but the district handles the funds).
  • Logicalis Inc. - $241,552.64: Michigan-based IT company that offers IT and digital technology services
  • DataServ - $235,779.20: An Ohio-based company that provides document intake, invoice automation, and analytics
  • Apple Inc. - $224,232: A California-based technology company.
  • ANS Advanced Network Services - $222,454.65: New York-based company and provider of telecommunications software, including in-building wireless, tower services, network infrastructure, DC power systems, monitoring and maintenance, and EV charging stations. Amount paid by ESSER funds.
  • Access Council - $80,077.84: Boardman, OH. Provides IT shared services to Ohio K-12 districts
  • Safari Micro Inc. - $72,783: Arizona-based IT hardware, software, and services.
  • Spectrum Enterprise - $64,722.89: A national company offering education technology services.

STAFF TRAINING - $8,191,741.94

  • CT3 - $5,040,235.78: from November 2020 through May 2023. San Francisco-based company coaching services; leadership coaching; professional development coaching for building leaders and teachers; professional development real-time leadership coaching; 10 books
  • The DF Team - $1,315,925: from Sept. 2019 through Oct. 2023. An Atlanta-based company owned by Kevin Harris (formerly of Youngstown) and his wife, Deirdre. Purchase orders show services include professional development for 2023-24 school year invoiced on Oct. 1, 2023. Previous invoices include services for historically black colleges and university recruiting liaison, recruiting services, leadership mentor/coach for office, principal and leadership teams for one year for 2021, 2022; mentoring/coach contract; consulting/coaching contract; leadership mentor coach, principal coaching/mentoring services; books and seminars
  • Successful Practices Network, Inc.: - $449,070: New York-based non-profit that specializes in dropout prevention, trauma skills, career/technical education and literacy. Used from Jan. 2023 through Dec. 2023.
  • Mayerson Academy - $355,040: Cincinnati-based private nonprofit providing professional development to school principals and teachers
  • Keys To Literacy LLC - $339,433.66: Massachusetts-based provider of literacy teacher training, curriculum, ongoing coaching and materials to educators
  • Northwest Evaluation Assoc - $311,637.50: Portland, OR. based education assessment and learning solutions company.
  • Ed. Innovations, LLC - $197,000: Ohio-based administrative coaching, instructional leadership coach and consultant/professional development trainer. CEO is Dr. India R. Ford
  • Project Evident, Inc. - $183,400: Boston-based company that works with districts to improve absenteeism, literacy, math and pandemic-learning loss.

WORKSHOPS/PROGRAMS - $7,196,542.04

  • City Kids Care - $5,862,710: An Austintown non-profit that offers programs after school, spring and summer programs, educational, health programs. Brandon Perry is the CEO.
  • LV8 Studios, LLC. - $450,250: A Youngstown-based company offering summer school classes in audio engineering, production and podcasting. Owned by Charles Colvin Jr.
  • United Way Of Youngstown - $344,559.34: for summer assistance program, family engagement nights and after-school program from July 2022 through Jan. 2024. President is Bob Hannon.
  • Make It Write LLC - $200,000.00: Youngstown-based father-engagement training workshops, including the Foundations of Fatherhood Project; owner is Deymonne Winford
  • Youngstown State University -  $138,500:20: The university, in 2021-22, offered coordination, professional development, and tutors for grades 2, 3, and 4 with a goal of enhancing student literacy for the district.
  • Assessment Technologies, Inc. - $129,635: Part of ATI Nursing Division based in Leawood, KS. Offers e-learning nursing programs.
  • DTE130 - $78,978.89 invoiced, paid $40,887.50: As of January. An NE Ohio-based Hip Hop Developmental Academy, run by Demetrius Thomas.
  • Riding on Grace, LLC Equestrian Riding Center - $15,000: Professional development services for empowerment coaching for Rayen Middle School staff, family and students. Coaching for mental health awareness, emotional processing and connection between physical and mental health. Owned by Sarah Jean Edwards.
  • Markus McFolling, LLC - $15,000: motivational speaker from Canton for seven visits.

VEHICLES - $5,119,154.51

  • Myers Equipment Corp. - $1,854,731: Canfield-based business that provides transportation fleets, including school buses. Craig Myers is president, CEO.
  • Rush Truck Centers Of Ohio, Inc. - $1,786,414: U.S. company that sells vehicles, including buses and transportation vehicles to schools.
  • Jim Shorkey Family Auto Group - $1,478,009.51: An Irwin, PA. car dealership from which the district purchased vehicles.

EDUCATION - $3,122,324.41

  • Edmentum Inc. - $1,043,034.41: Minnesota-based international company offering K–12 digital curriculum, assessments, and services for schools
  • Savvas Learning Co. -  $594,827.21: New Jersey-based learning solutions company for teachers for grades K-12
  • Cengage Publishers, Inc - $503,003.32: Boston-based educational content, technology, and services company for K–12, paid with ESSER funds.
  • Music & Arts - $273,076.20: band supplies and repairs from Guitar Center
  • Buckeye Ed Systems /Hoffman Crow Inc. - $213,248.53: Indiana-based educational technologies, curriculum, and training materials for industrial training
  • Really Great Reading Company - $176,219.54: Maryland-based researched-based literacy program company
  • McGraw Hill School Educ. - $135,280.20: New York. Publishing company for education content and software services.
  • Achieve3000, Inc. - $93,635: A McGraw Hill subsidiary offering digital solutions for teachers to aid in the growth of reading, math, curriculum
  • Schoolyard Rap - $90,000: Los Angeles-based company that creates educational content, curriculum, music, and professional development for minority students.

SUPPLIES - $1,490,430.35

  • Supply Room, Inc. - $424,888.96: Youngstown OH. Educational supplies.
  • Hearn Paper Company - $362,752: Youngstown. Paper, janitorial, and packaging supplies.
  • RL Smith Graphics - $239,173: Boardman; Signs, vehicles graphics, wall banners, printing, promo items, postcards; Keri Johnson, president.
  • Easy Graphics - $273,571.33: Ohio-based electronic retailer of educational aids for the classroom
  • M. Conley, Company - $83,177.92: Canton OH-based janitorial, industrial packaging and food service supplies and equipment.
  • MRMB House  - $59,275: A national retailer on TIPS (pre-approved, no- bid required school purchasing cooperative) offering janitorial supplies
  • Stark County Cog - $47,592.14: no bid cooperative for schools to purchase supplies.


  • MindPlay - $522,625: Arizona-based reading and math software
  • Espark Learning - $268,650.92: Chicago-based online instruction for math, reading
  • Apex Learning Inc - $132,090: Seattle-based provider of digital curriculum.
  • Explore Learning - $125,698.58: A Virginia-based STEM learning online simulations and case studies for math and science
  • BrainPOP  - $91,945.12:  New York-based online educational resource for literacy.
  • Zaner-Bloser, Inc. - $71,884.42: Columbus-based company that publishes online handwriting, reading, writing, spelling and vocabulary programs.

21 News reached out to the district for comment on purchases of goods and services, but was referred back to the response the district supplied when the state audit was released that stated “Youngstown City Schools worked cooperatively and transparently with the audit team for the Performance Audit that was required by HB 110. We know that one of the concerns that has been pointed out is the projected negative fund balance in a few years. It is important to note that this is not new information. Our district treasurer conducted the five-year forecast and reported publicly a projected negative fund balance in his last two forecasts and most recently at a December Board of Education meeting.”

Youngstown City School Board said in January it is not publicly discussing the state performance audit or ongoing developments with the FBI. A call to YCSD Board President Juanita Walker said to attend the board meetings to hear more about their plan for working on the deficit.

QuickMed’s owner Esmail provided an emailed response from a representative that claimed the FBI is looking into dozens or more contracts between companies, some local, that had contracts with the Youngstown City School District. 

Melissa Robinson with City Kids Care told 21 News reporter Madison Tromler they first began working with the district in 2017, and fulfilled each contract with the district including services like supporting school communication with students and parents, help with processing attendance, homework assistance and food distributions.

Calls, texts and emails to other businesses about services supplied were not provided as of the publishing of this story.