YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Several Ohio educators met inside the Mahoning County Courthouse on Monday to define what it means to be a teacher.
In mid-November, Youngstown City School Board President Brenda Kimble named Carol Staten to serve on the district’s academic distress commission, set up by the order of the state of Ohio as House Bill 70. But Staten is a substitute principal, and the teacher’s union argued the person appointed should be a teacher.
For the first time since she was appointed a month ago, Staten spoke publicly about joining the distress commission, saying even though she now works as a part-time administrator, she is aware of the role that educators play in the classroom. During her testimony, she was asked if she still considers herself a teacher.
“A teacher has many hats, and I’ve worn most of them — principal, assistant principal, supervisor — but you’re always a teacher,” she said.
Members of the Youngstown Education Association are suing to keep Staten off the commission. On Monday, lawyers for both sides argued their cases, as did a representative for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
The hearing revolved around two main issues: Whether Kimble could appoint Staten and whether the commission could meet without their other members.
The head of the teachers’ union said the position — one of five that will make up the commission and will help hire a new CEO for the district — should go to someone in his bargaining unit.
“We just feel that with the teachers being day-to-day in those trenches in the classrooms, dealing with the issues at hand, that they would be best served to have their voice heard,” said Youngstown Education Association President Larry Ellis.
When it was her turn on the witness stand, Kimble admitted she considered more than half-a-dozen candidates, including three teachers, before deciding on Staten. She said her priority was in saving the students and boosting academic levels.
“I felt like I need someone who was well-rounded, that I knew understood the city school district and was around the children for years,” she said.
The magistrate said court orders keeping Staten from taking the appointment — and prohibiting the commission from conducting any business until all five members are seated — will remain in place for now. But Assistant Attorney General Mike Fisher, who represents the academic distress commission, argued the case is holding the district back from making improvements and needs to be dismissed.
“We lose one more year. These children lose one more year, because we’re here fighting,” he said.
Magistrate Daniel Descenzo said he will be taking that into consideration as well before making a ruling.