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Lorain Parents join HB 70 fray

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LORAIN — A group of parents has joined the regional pushback against House Bill 70, helping circulate a petition slated to go to legislators later this month.

Sumer Harvey, Mary Miller and Barbie Washington have joined the Lorain School Board, Youngstown School Board and others to collect signatures for a “petition to preserve public education and local control.” They formed Lorain Tackles House Bill 70 in response to the Ohio Supreme Court agreeing to hear Youngstown School Board’s appeal against the bill.

“We know we needed change but we don’t feel that taking the authority away from local government is the way to go,” Washington said.

The petition, first started by Youngstown School Board president Brenda Kimble, asks Governor John Kasich, state representatives and senators to end the state takeover of local school districts allowed by House Bill 70. Youngstown was the first district to be subjected to the plan, followed by Lorain, and most recently East Cleveland. The petition asks for laws that allow local control to be returned to elected officials rather than appointed district CEOs, calling House Bill 70 “anti-democracy legislation.”

Harvey, Miller and Washington first started the group It Takes a Village in mid-October, which focuses on the positive aspects and achievements of students and staff in the district while working to address community concerns. Still active, that group also is working to bridge communication gaps across the district, connecting parents regardless of what building their children attend.

“We just want to hold them accountable,” Harvey said of district administration. “And I think that in the past we’ve not done that as a whole, communitywise, and I feel that’s part of the reason … the demise of our district came because nobody really paid attention and nobody knew what was going on and nobody knew how bad it was. And whatever happened before and whoever’s fault it is really isn’t important to me, at this point (we) just want to help fix it to the best of our ability.”

They said regardless of whether House Bill 70 is repealed, It Takes a Village will continue on.

“With or without House Bill 70, our district is still in trouble,” Harvey said. “So we still need It Takes a Village.”

After the Ohio Supreme Court agreed to hear Youngstown School Board’s appeal regarding the legislation, and growing concerns within the district, the women created Lorain Tackles House Bill 70 to gather support and signatures for the cause ahead of a rally at the Statehouse. The petition is open to any Ohio resident 18 and older, not just registered voters, as it is a “petition of concern.”

The public rally is slated for noon Nov. 28 at the Riffe Center, 77 S High St. in Columbus. A group will convene an hour before the rally on the third floor of the center, and there will be lobbying at 2p.m.

The Lorain Academic Distress Commission meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Nov. 28 at General Johnnie Wilson Middle School.

The goal, Miller said, is to see House Bill 70 repealed and things go back to a semblance of order, with Washington adding parents would like to see a continuation of some strides the district made by former superintendent Jeff Graham before CEO David Hardy was hired.

“It’s (in) disarray right now,” Miller said. “The grade came up right before Hardy began … like we were on that track,” Miller said. “We made strides only to go backwards.”

A request for comment from Lorain Schools was not returned.

For more information on Lorain Tackles House Bill 70, including where its plans plan to collect signatures, visit the group’s Facebook page, or email them at loraintackleshousebill70@gmail.com.

Contact Carissa Woytach at 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.


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