State Sen. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, gave sponsor testimony on Senate Bill 110, a Lorain-specific fix for House Bill 70, at Tuesday’s Senate Education Committee.
The bill would change how Academic Distress Commission members are appointed, increase communication between the School Board and CEO and require evaluations of the CEO and district.
“Currently there are two (ADC members) that are appointed by (State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria) that are not even from the county,” he said. “So this is bringing more local control by taking one of his appointments and simply giving it to the mayor.”
The bill also would require a financial and performance audit of the district, similar to what happens before schools fall under the purview of House Bill 70.
“I heard a lot from teachers and School Board members that this was very beneficial to the school district before House Bill 70, and they were certainly improving from the performance audits and gathering valuable information and then the financial audit,” he said. “We figured that is useful. The School Board, currently the only control that they have is whether or not they can put a levy on the ballot, and we felt that this is an important tool that they can use on determining whether that is necessary.”
Under the bill, the ADC would be required to perform an evaluation of the CEO — something stipulated in CEO David Hardy’s contract but not in Ohio Revised Code.
That contract-stipulated evaluation has yet to happen, despite Hardy being in the district for nearly two school years. Recently appointed ADC Chairman Randall Sampson is in the process of completing Hardy’s overdue review.
Senate Bill 110 also would stipulate the treasurer and the CEO be hired separately and that the CEO provide updates to the School Board.
Members of the Education Committee questioned Manning about why the mayor was given the extra appointment, and whether returning local control to the district would actually help it improve.
Manning said the mayor was chosen because he has some skin in the game, but it was open to further discussion.
Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Township, touched on the lack of communication between the ADC and School Board.
“I don’t know that we’re all that great running schools. I don’t think the initial reports from Youngstown and Lorain are all that promising that we’re any better at this than the local board was,” he said. “But one of the complaints I’ve heard regarding the existing law is the lack of communication between the commission and the board.”
Manning said House Bill 70 in part set the CEO up for failure, but he was unsure why Hardy made the decision not to attend School Board meetings.
“It’s just a realization that the school, as Sen. (Andy) Brenner points out, I don’t think they’re in a condition now that they’re proud of,” Coley said. “No one would be happy with that, and I understand that. You’re just tying to decide who’s going to run and who’s going to have a say in how this thing comes out of the distress situation it is in.”
Education Committee Chair Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, suspects changes to House Bill 70 only will be overshadowed by the new school funding proposal during this General Assembly.
“Yours made a lot of sense to bring — for one thing it was the first (bill) dropped in the Senate,” she said. “But a lot of sense to sort of open this conversation, and it is going to be an ongoing conversation with lots of different opinions. And I think there’s one thing that is kind of universal — and that’s the sense that there is not enough local control in the academic distress commission as written.”
As a legislator who voted for House Bill 70, she said the initial intent was to provide authority locals in Youngstown said they wanted.
“It sort of has turned out to be a Trojan horse because that local control sort of vanished down the road,” she said.
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