Niles School Board swears in 3 new members, including one with pending lawsuit

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Chris Chieffo was fired from his job as a Niles teacher after accusations he used sick time to take off work and coach Howland golf

NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – The Niles City School District begins 2020 in fiscal emergency and Thursday night, the voters got what they wanted — a makeover of the school board.

Three new members were sworn in, meaning the majority of the five-member board is new. One of the new members currently has a lawsuit pending against the board on which he now serves.

The new members were sworn in together — Shelly Lamb, Kim Barrell and Chris Chieffo.

It’s Chieffo who has a lawsuit pending against the school board through the Niles Teachers Union. It claims his firing was done improperly.

Chieffo was fired from his job as a Niles teacher in January 2018. He was accused of using sick time to take off work and coach the boys golf team in Howland.

A Trumbull County Common Pleas judge dismissed the lawsuit but Chieffo and the union have appealed.

In his December 23 resignation letter, Chieffo wrote: “This should not be seen as in any way affecting my pending…demand for arbitration, or my appeal…I specifically reserve all rights with respect to those cases.”

Chieffo did not want to talk with us Thursday night.

“We’re in a good place right now,” said Superintendent Ann Marie Thigpen.

She may not have said the same thing 10 months ago when Niles Schools were placed in fiscal emergency.

Since then, wages have been frozen, health care plans reduced and five positions eliminated through attrition — which is when someone quits and they aren’t replaced.

“In November, the board adopted or approved the five-year forecast and right now, the bottom line five years from now shows us positive,” Thigpen said.

Before Niles is released from fiscal emergency, it must find a permanent treasurer. It’s a requirement of the fiscal commission overseeing the district.

“Until we have somebody there who’s going to be showing them what the accounting practices are of the district, we won’t look to get out anytime before that,” Thigpen said.

Niles is currently sharing Craig Yaniglos with Brookfield, but he’s leaving January 31 and there are no plans for a treasurer after that. That’s next week’s problem.

Still, board President Tony Perrone is optimistic.

“Our treasurer, our superintendent and that fiscal commission have done a nice job of putting things on the right track and putting the district going in the right direction,” he said.

Perrone was elected president of the Niles School Board. He said he was not concerned about Chieffo serving on the board he’s suing.

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