LORAIN — The Lorain school board was urged to take legal action at a meeting Monday night to fight against the state legislation that stripped them of most of their powers.
Former U.S. Congressman and current Democratic candidate for Ohio governor Dennis Kucinich, who was invited to speak at the meeting, said the school board has two courses of legal recourse to try and get their district back from CEO David Hardy.
Since Hardy was appointed to his position back in July, the board has contended that he has not filled or has been unresponsive to public records requests, some of which might help to paint a financial picture for the district and help the board decide whether or not to place a renewal levy on the ballot.
“I noted with concern the lack of responsiveness on the part of the CEO of the Academic Distress Commission created by House Bill 70,” Kucinich said. “You are entitled by law to the information which you requested of the CEO. House Bill 70 was an anti-democratic bill.”
The first option is to fight the constitutionality of state House Bill 70, the 2015 legislation that put Hardy in power after years of poor state report card scores in the Lorain school district.
According to the legislation, Hardy has complete managerial and instructional control of the district and while an Academic Distress Commission put him in place, he is not directly accountable to them.
Kucinich’s second option was based on a section of Ohio Revised Code that allows citizens to remove a public officer, which he believes Hardy is, based on nonfeasance, the failure to act when action is required; misfeasance, a willfully inappropriate action or intentional incorrect action; or malfeasance, a willful and intentional action that injures a party.
According to Kucinich and the state law, a written complaint must be produced and it must be submitted in the form of a petition that’s signed by 15 percent of the number of votes cast in the last governor’s race.
In Lorain, 11,609 votes were cast for governor in 2014 so the petition must have 1,741 signatures on it before it can be submitted to the court, which then has 30 days to consider the complaint.
“This section of the Ohio Revised Code makes it clear that the members of the board and the people of Lorain have constitutional and legal recourse in dealing with an appointed school CEO who is unaccountable, secretive and unresponsive, acting as though he is beyond the reach of public concern,” Kucinich said. “I submit these two potential courses of action for your consideration. I applaud your willingness to fight back to reclaim the democratic rights of this elected school board to be of service to Lorain in the interests of the education of the children of this community.”
Two Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor spoke as well — Chantelle Lewis, who is the principal at Lorain’s Larkmoor Elementary School and is running with former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, and former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, who is running with former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray.
School board president Tony Dimacchia said he was glad the politicians came because he wanted them to see what’s going on in Lorain schools.
“I didn’t want this to turn into a campaign event, but we sent out an invitation to everyone because we want them to know this is happening,” he said. “Everyone made really good points, but we want people to see what this legislation is doing.”
Hardy was not in attendance at the school board meeting Monday night, as has been the case since he came to the district, because he previously has said he doesn’t answer to the board. Dimacchia said he also won’t be attending Hardy’s town hall meeting scheduled for Thursday night at Longfellow Middle School.
Youngstown school board president Brenda Kimble, who attended the Lorain board meeting Monday, said her district’s CEO, Krish Mohip, also doesn’t attend their board meetings.
“He doesn’t share anything with us and if he can cut us out he will,” she said. “He doesn’t let the administration talk to us. There’s no communication. We’ve been totally cut out.”
At the meeting, Kimble said the legislation, which first took effect in Youngstown before coming to Lorain, is “dangerous.”
“The community has to get behind the board to fight this off,” she said. “This is a very dangerous house bill that is basically created to take over public education and create charter schools. Anytime anyone can come into your school and have complete control that’s not a good thing. That’s a dictatorship.”
According to the legislation, appointed CEOs can change “failing” buildings into charter schools during the second year of their tenure.
“We’re working as hard as we can to move this bill out of the way because it’s just not right,” Kimble said. “Please get behind your board. They need your help because they have no power. The people you elected to look over your taxpayer dollars? They have no power. You have more than they do.”
Hardy will host a town hall meeting 5 p.m. Thursday at Longfellow Middle School, 305 Louisiana Ave.
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