YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The president of the Youngstown School Board has responded to the chairman of the Academic Distress Commission after the chairman cut off all communication between the Board and the Commission.

Last Wednesday, Dr. John Richard, chairman of the Youngstown Schools’ Academic Distress Commission, wrote a letter to the Youngstown School Board.

In it, he stated he no longer trusted the board because he claimed some members made negative comments to the Akron School Board about CEO Justin Jennings concerning Jennings’ potential employment with the Akron Schools.

Richard wrote, “At best, some of that communication was uninformed and comments were made out of ignorance. At worst, it was done with malicious intent and deception. Either way, it is potentially damaging without merit to Mr. Jennings’ immediate circumstances, and possibly to his future career.”

In his response letter to Richard, which we received today, School Board President Ron Shadd wrote that he was disappointed that the chair of one public entity would shun another public entity, especially since the ADC is required by law to assist the board.

Shadd’s letter to Richard called the shunning “unwarranted and unwise. Your action was based on alleged personal comments, not on any actions of the Board itself. Sadly, your shunning may undermine the Board… to improve the district. I wish we could have had discussions to create a better resolution.”

Shadd wrote that he himself had offered to provide a recommendation for Jennings.

Richard has not returned our calls for comment.

We don’t know what was said about Jennings or who said it.

The Youngstown School Board is preparing to take back control of the school district from the Academic Distress Commission on July 1.

Below is Shadd’s full letter to Richard.

I read your letter several times and I am grateful for the conversation we had after you publicized your thoughts. However, I remain concerned and disappointed that the chair of one public entity (the ADC) would shun another public entity(the Board), especially since the ADC is required by law to assist as the Board emerges from CEO control.

During my tenure on the Youngstown Board of Education and especially as president over the past year, respect has been shown for you and your fellow ADC members. As your letter stated, “I believe we have made a good deal of progress in working together over these past few years through involving board members in the CEO’s hiring process, ongoing communication, establishing a financial advisory committee and even holding meetings together.” I would add that the approval of the Board’s Academic Improvement Plan is the epitome of the progress made between our governing bodies. These accomplishments are above reproach. These are milestones for the duly elected Board, the community that we represent, and the ADC.

Alleged comments surrounding the CEO’s personal attempt for employment with the Akron School District should not be a wedge to divide the ADC and the Board, both of which are public entities serving the educational interests of Youngstown students. The Board is not the employer of the CEO, and the Board did not adopt any resolution or position addressing future employment for which the CEO may be considered. Moreover, news reports from Akron reflect that the Akron Board tabled discussion about his proposed employment in a newly created position there pending salary negotiations that are expected to continue. And, when asked about the CEO leaving our District, I am on record with local news media congratulating and wishing him well. Recall too that I even asked you if it would be appropriate to supply a recommendation on his behalf, and that I told you that I would not stand in the way of his search for employment elsewhere.

Your action as chair of the ADC to shun the Board is unwarranted and unwise. Your action was based on alleged personal comments, not on any actions of the Board itself. Sadly, your shunning may undermine the Board, and collaterally the ADC, after the Board and the ADC have worked so hard to improve the district. I wish we could have had discussions to create a better resolution.

Please recall that, since 2015, the Board has been rendered politically powerless, outnumbered, and has faced the malignant influence of those who use the facade of “what’s best for our children” to condemn our efforts to truly fight for a better future for our children, literally our flesh and blood. We have not been paid a king’s ransom, nor have we been deployed here due to employment or political alignment. We, the Board, have endured these difficulties because these are our children, and this is our home.