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Lorain Council passes resolution on schools to stop public bickering

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LORAIN — Council is calling on the school district’s factions to work together via a resolution passed Monday night.

It asks the district CEO David Hardy and the Board of Education to work together and “immediately cease all acts of public disharmony.” It also requests Hardy disclose public records and the school board seek legal representation about their concerns with Hardy’s administration.

During the meeting, Council initially sent the matter to a second reading, failing to garner enough votes to suspend the three-reading rule. Council-at-large members Mitch Fallis and Mary Springowski, and Ward 3 Councilwoman Pam Carter initially voted against the suspension.

But, after comments toward the end of the meeting, the matter was reopened and eventually passed.

Council President Joel Arredondo said it makes “no sense” what is going on in the district and called for open communication from the CEO — a sentiment many Council members agreed with.

“Eighteen months is a long time this gentleman has been here, and there is no way, shape or form that we should have to accept this,” Arredondo said. “We’re adults. … When he spurned the (Mayor Chase Ritenauer), who is the CEO of the city, that ‘Well, thanks for the invite, but no.’ I told (Hardy) point-blank Friday, face-to-face, get to the table.”

He went on to say he knew of eight teachers who had left their jobs with the district because of “nervous breakdowns,” and others were under immense stress.

Other Council members supported a resolution at the state level, with Springowski requesting the city send a copy of the local resolution to State Superintendent Paola DeMaria. Angel Arroyo, D-6th Ward, said the city should be pushing state Rep. Gayle Manning and state Sen. Nathan Manning.

Greg Argenti, I-Ward 4, agreed, but supported the local resolution as well. He pointed out that Hardy has “no skin in the game” under House Bill 70, as he reports to lawmakers in Columbus.

Others felt the resolution should wait until the vacancy on the Academic Distress Commission was filled. Chairman Tony Richardson resigned effective Jan. 21. The state has until Thursday to fill his position — which is before a joint meeting Ritenauer called between the Commission, school board and Hardy. The meeting is set for Feb. 26. Hardy declined to attend.

Joe Koziura, D-at large, noted it’s the city’s perception on the line.

“This isn’t a political resolution,” he said. “This isn’t an accusation of any party. This is merely saying as city fathers, we have to look at the schools and responsibility and the perception it is for this community to grow and become the city we hope to be.”

Ritenauer said resolution or not, Council needs to be concerned. He said he is working at addressing House Bill 70 and its impact on the district legislatively, but said they need to think locally as well.

“I think House Bill 70, as Mr. Koziura said, is a deeply flawed bill,” Ritenauer said. “I think at its root it’s designed not to work. How do you run a school district with zero local control, with zero local participation? You don’t … This thing is structured so that every urban school district eventually is going to fall into it. It’s untenable, it’s unwieldy, the state is not going to be able to run all of these school districts.”

Later, he added, “The CEO, appointed by an appointed board, whose majority is appointed by another appointed official — too many appointments, not enough direct responsibility to an electorate. I think that’s a real problem, regardless of which side of this you’re on … The issue is accountability and where is it? I can say right now, resolution or not, if nothing changes this school district is on a path to destruction.”

Following discussions, the rules were suspended, and the ordinance passed 10-0. Arroyo already had left the meeting.

Additionally, Law Director Pat Riley confirmed he and Mallory Santiago will be at tonight’s school board meeting providing legal services to the board as required.

In other news

After a public hearing and short presentation by Eric Emery from Tuckerman Development, Council approved rezoning for a plot of land on Apple Avenue. Part of the former Burger Chef drive-thru, the lot was rezoned from an R-3 to a B-2 to match the adjacent property. A dry-goods chain store, not a dollar store, will be going in there pending design review. Emery said he could not release the name until then.

The city will apply for a federal grant to repair sidewalks under the Safe Routes to School program. If chosen, Lorain will receive up to $400,000 from the state and Ohio Department of Transportation, for the repair or replacement of sidewalks along school routes. Applications are due March 5.

Council also approved road rehabilitation projects for Livingston Avenue between West 33 and West 32, 10th Street between Long and Reid avenues and East 34th between Clifton and Dallas avenues. Projects will be paid for via Community Development Block Grants for roughly $434,567.

The next regular City Council meeting is 6 p.m. March 4. A Finance/Claims and All-Council Committee meeting is 6 p.m. March 25. A public hearing on allowing mini-storage facilities on B-2 and B-3 properties as a conditional use is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. March 18.

Contact Carissa Woytach at (440) 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.


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