ELYRIA — A state law affecting Youngstown City Schools is being denounced as draconian by the Elyria school board, which deems the legislation far-reaching into matters that should remain under local control.
Under the new law, dubbed the “Youngstown Plan,” the school district soon will see a new academic distress commission that will appoint a CEO with the power to hire, fire, make changes to student instruction and alter collective bargaining agreements. While the law, also known as House Bill 70, is now only specifically being used to target Youngstown Schools, Elyria board members worry state leaders will use it in the future as the groundwork of other state takeovers.
“Local control is very important,” said Elyria board President Kathyrn Karpus.
From expenditures to expenses and duties to hire and fire staff, board members have many responsibilities to the district and its citizens by the nature of their election, she said.
“All that is at risk with House Bill 70,” Karpus said.
Board members Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution opposing the bill, which was introduced and passed by both the House and Senate at the 11th hour of biennial budget talks.
“You are a board elected by the citizens of Elyria to represent the needs of children in Elyria,” said Elyria Superintendent Tom Jama. “By passing this, you are saying to your community that you believe parents, teachers, administrators and the board know what is best for the children of Elyria.”
The Youngstown Schools are under the watch of an academic distress commission, only one of two districts facing such outside control. Lorain Schools is the second district. The Youngstown Plan was reportedly developed to combat years of academic failure in the district.
However, with Lorain Schools facing similar scrutiny — although its academic distress commission has been in place for far fewer years — elected leaders are speaking out against the plan, fearing it could be a foreshadowing of things to come in Lorain and across the state.
Lorain school board member Tom Smith has said that everyone should be concerned about House Bill 70. While Lorain has been given a two-year reprieve before facing the fallout of the law, the state has the power to change its mind and uproot everything the district has tried to restore.
Matt Jablonski, a teacher at Elyria High School, sounded the alarm at a board meeting early this month that led to the passage of Wednesday’s resolution. Wednesday night he was on hand to watch the board vote.
In other news
The Elyria school board is going on the road.
September’s board meeting will not be at the Griswold Administration Center as usual, but instead board members will meet at Ely Elementary School.
“We want to give the public the opportunity to get into the buildings and see all the many wonderful things happening with our students,” Jama said. “Principal Jack Dibee wants Ely Elementary to be first, and we will see a short presentation that evening.”
In announcing the meeting change, Jama said nothing of the district’s hope to go on the ballot in November 2016 with a bond issue to build new elementary and middle schools, taking advantage of the state’s pledge to pay 63 percent of construction costs.
Jama calls it the buy one, get two free plan.
Elyria High School was built with state dollars as well, but the share was not even 40 percent of the more than $70 million facility. Local taxes paid for most of the bulk of the building.
Now, Elyria has the opportunity to have a building project funded in reverse proportion.
Board members have not formally taken action to get on the November 2016 ballot and will not do so until next year. But all have publically said they have a duty to let Elyria voters decide its future with so much state money on the table.
Karpus said she looks forward to taking the board meetings on the road.
- Lorain officials wonder if CEO installation looms
- Lorain school superintendent braces for state meeting; is CEO at hand?
- Lorain Schools willing to work with state in CEO transition
- Lorain school board travels to Youngstown to talk House Bill 70 (VIDEO)
- State school board candidates visit Lorain, talk about House Bill 70
- Ohio Supreme Court takes House Bill 70 appeal