McNally to Name Representative to School Commission

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Mayor John McNally expects to name his appointee to the new academic distress commission for the Youngstown City School District early next week, he says.

McNally, who originally planned to name himself to the commission, decided against doing so after receiving an opinion he sought from the law department.

The new academic distress commission, created as part of the so-called Youngstown plan enacted this summer as an amendment to legislation establishing community learning centers in Ohio, will have five appointees, including one by Youngstown’s mayor.

The Ohio Department of Education will name three members to the panel and the president of the Youngstown Board of Education will have one appointment.

So far no appointments to the commission have been made, said Toby Lichtle, assistant director of communications and outreach for the Ohio Department of Education.

McNally had intended to appoint himself to ensure that someone with “true government experience” was on the commission. He has heard names of a couple of the possible appointees “and from what I can tell they don’t have any true government experience,” he said. “That’s the one thing that might be missing in this whole process and I thought my appointment would lend some strength in that fashion.”

The law department review, according to the memorandum from Law Director Martin Hume and Deputy Law Director Rebecca Gerson, determined that a seat on the commission would constitute a public office. Under the city charter, the mayor is prohibited from holding “any other office, except that of notary public.”

In addition to the city charter, the memo also cited an Ohio Ethics Commission advisory opinion regarding whether appointment to a position on a school district financial planning and supervision commission constituted holding a public office.

“Historically in Ohio mayors don’t have really strong roles to play in the educational system the way our education system is setup,” McNally said. “I thought that with the sort of precarious nature of House Bill 70 as it was going into effect and all of the concerns that folks have about its implementation that, quite frankly, having somebody on that commission with true government experience – not political experience but true government experience – was going to be important.”

McNally said he has until Nov. 13 to make the appointment. Some individuals have expressed interest and he has asked the law department “to research a couple of smaller issues that might help guide me in my pick,” he said. “I’m hoping by Monday or Tuesday of next week we could have this wrapped up.”

The mayor said he wants to appoint someone with government or public-sector experience who will not only represent his interests but who will “look out for the students, parents and teachers in the district,” he said.

“I know he’s going to do a thorough search to find the best person,” state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-33 Boardman, said. The state senate minority leader said he is pleased that McNally properly vetted and researched his idea to appoint himself to the panel before making that appointment.

Schiavoni, who announced last month he would introduce legislation that would limit some of the powers of the CEO to be appointed by the commission and make other amendments to H.B. 70, said the bill has been introduced. State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-58 Youngstown, announced at the same news conference she was introducing companion legislation.

Schiavoni said he has spoken with the chairwoman of the senate education committee, Peggy Lehner, who told him she is working on the committee schedule but assured him he would get to provide sponsor testimony this month and there would be future hearings in December.

“I’ve just got to continue to pressure her to follow through with that,” he said.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.