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Youngstown teachers union, school board condemn HB 70

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) - A law passed last week by Ohio lawmakers that gives the state control of the Youngstown City School District is not sitting well with the Youngstown teachers union or the Youngstown Board of Education.

The 66-page House Bill 70 could lead to the closure of the Youngstown schools if a CEO and academic distress commission think that is what is best for the district.

And, our station learned Monday that two of the seven people who were instrumental in getting the bill passed were Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel and Youngstown- Warren Regional Chamber President Tom Humphries. State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, confirmed that last Tuesday, Tressel and Humphries went to Columbus to testify in favor of the bill before state lawmakers.

Messages left for Humphries and Tressel have not yet been returned. However, school district leaders are upset and said this bill could have a catastrophic impact on the Youngstown City Schools.

"I think what they want is a business. I don't think there is any concern about our children's education and that is what upsets all of the board members," Board of Education President Brenda Kimble said.

She said the Board of Education was not included in the process that will allow the state to take over the district.

"Nobody. Nobody was a part of the meetings," Kimble said.

District leaders said they still have not been told who all was a part of getting this bill to Columbus.

"If you felt you were....that you did things ethical, then why are you ashamed for your names to be known?," Kimble said after a board meeting Monday.

Before the bill becomes law, it needs Ohio Gov. John Kasich's signature, which is expected this week.

If that happens, a new five-person academic distress commission will be created  and they will pick a CEO.

Betsy Johnquest retired from Chaney High School  and she said this decision will have a negative impact.

"It is against our rights to not be able to have a say in what we want our education to be like for our kids and we are trying to do a good job and Youngstown people are very concerned about this," Johnquest said.

The state takeover can apply to any school district in the state if they meet certain criteria. But, Youngstown will be the district where things are flushed out.

The Youngstown Education Association released a statement condemning the passage of HB 70 on Saturday.

Youngstown Education Association President Larry Ellis released a statement Saturday. He said the union is "very disappointed" that the input from teachers in the Youngstown City School District was not included in the creation of HB 70.

"This continues a pattern of excluding teachers in the discussion concerning the education of the children of Youngstown," Ellis wrote.

Ellis said the association plans to advocate for public education in Youngstown by actively engaging stakeholders in regards to the future of Youngstown City Schools.

Also at Monday's meeting, Stephen Stohla was officially chosen as the district's interim superintendent. He wills serve in the interim position for six months following the departure of Dr. Connie Hathorn.

Stohla said he is working to make sure he is visible to students and staff in the district. But he said  there are some big factors to deal with outside of the class.

"I want to be very visible. I want to do everything I can to help students become productive members of the Youngstown community," Stohla said.

He said he is still not sure whether he will seek the superintendent's position  on a permanent basis, but he does not think he will.

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