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State school board candidates visit Lorain, talk about House Bill 70


LORAIN — Three candidates for state school board stopped at Lorain High School Wednesday evening and answered questions focusing on House Bill 70 and the state takeover of Lorain Schools.

Democrats Annette Dudek Shine, W. Roger Knight and Jeanine Donaldson are running for State School Board District 2, which includes Lorain County, against incumbent Charles Froehlich.

Following opening statements, Lorain City Democratic Party Chairman Paul Adams asked candidates their thoughts on House Bill 70, which allowed for the state takeover of Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland schools after the districts received continuous failing scores on the Ohio Department of Education’s report card.

Knight, a former building principal and teacher in school systems throughout Erie, Huron, Lorain, Crawford and Richland counties, said he didn’t have “tremendous expertise” on the bill, but had been looking at Lorain as to what had been done to its schools under the legislation.

“No school should be taken over by the state because of their throwing in the towel,” Knight said. “And that’s essentially what has happened here — well we don’t know what to do so we’ll write something up and we’ll penalize you or punish you … so if you don’t have a student body and the staff and the community that feels like they are first-class citizens then you’re not going to progress because of threats and mandates.”

Donaldson, who leads the Lorain and Elyria YWCAs and is a former teacher and school board member for Lorain Schools, is well aware of Lorain’s takeover. While she was not on the board when the district was first listed under Academic Distress, she said she watched as former Superintendent Tom Tucker and the school board struggled to meet state standards before the process fully began.

“I have been reading and watching; I’m very close with a couple of the school board people. So I know what’s going on, and I just think it’s wrong,” she said. “But the thing that’s really wrong about it is the state board just seems to … they didn’t really have anything in place in how to implement it. … They kept changing the goal posts so as Lorain and Tom Tucker and that board got closer then all of a sudden they just decided ‘nope, too late.’ … I’m concerned now about all the other schools that are going to be in the pipeline.

Shine, a Toledo native with a background in chemical engineering, said a state takeover of any kind of governmental entity was not good, comparing it to handlings in Detroit and Flint, Michigan.

“The Youngstown Plan, which is what Lorain is under, is nothing but a hostile takeover,” Shine said. “Even in business people try to maneuver a friendly takeover if they can because it works out better for everybody if you can do that. And a hostile takeover ends up costing more money, it generates all kinds of animosity — people get hostile when they’re being hostilely taken over — so I think from what I’ve read, that sounds like what’s happened here.”

Lorain School Board members and community members followed, with Yvonne Johnson asking if candidates thought the district would be turned into a charter school, and Bill Sturgill asking what candidates would do to address graduation rates.

Candidates also touched on furthering preschool programs to get students ready to meet kindergarten standards. All were in favor of Democrat Richard Cordray for governor, as well as strengthening collective bargaining for teachers.

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

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