YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – On the floor of the Ohio House this past Wednesday, State Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan recommended approval of House Bill 154, which would repeal House Bill 70, better known as the “Youngstown Plan.”
“House Bill 70 was a blueprint for failure,” she said.
Her colleagues agreed, overwhelmingly passing the bill that would eliminate academic distress commissions like the one appointed for Youngstown. It would return control of academically distressed school districts back to the locally elected school boards.
Youngstown School Board President Brenda Kimble called HB 154 a good bill, saying she loves it.
Should school boards regain control, it’ll likely mean eliminating the CEO position and returning to a superintendent.
So, Kimble suggested that the commission should delay hiring recently appointed CEO Justin Jenning and have current Superintendent Joe Meranto run the district until a decision is made in Columbus.
“It doesn’t make any sense to hire a CEO, even though it’s not our funds, it’s all state funds. That funding could be used for programs for us,” Kimble said.
Commission member Nick Santucci disagrees.
“There are a lot of different hypotheticals and moving parts, regardless of what the legislature decides to do. It’s what’s best for students and I believe moving forward with incoming CEO Justing Jennings is the right approach,” he said.
Another significant part of the bill is that state intervention would take place on individual school buildings, not entire school districts.
“It’s better that way because we have different challenges in every building and this way we can work on those separately,” Kimble said.
Those school buildings would have to be low performing for three straight years. The bill would also require a community learning center model to be implemented and some type of commission to be put in place to oversee improvement.
The Ohio Board of Education pays the CEO’s salary, but if the commission and the CEO are eliminated, Kimble wants the Youngstown BOE to hire its own superintendent.
HB 154 now heads to the Senate, where not everyone agrees the House plan is the way to go.
Senator Peggy Lehner of the Dayton area chairs the education committee. She told the Akron Beacon Journal that the House bill “basically turns the solution back to people who haven’t been able to solve it up to now. If they had the answers, they would have already tried it.”