Austintown School Board puts off superintendent contract decision

About 300 people packed into Fitch High School's cafeteria for the school board meeting

austintown school board meeting

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Austintown School Board decided to table the issue of whether or not to extend Superintendent Vince Colaluca’s contract.

At a meeting Thursday night, about 300 people packed into Fitch High School’s cafeteria, the largest crowd most board members had ever seen. It was an intense meeting that became personal at times.

Colaluca took a seat at the table, looking into the large crowd of people, many of whom wanted him fired.

The board considered extending Colaluca’s contract, which expires at the end of 2017. The extension would renew his contract into 2020.

Austintown resident Mandy Richmond presented a petition of 1,500 signatures to the board. She was the first of nine people to speak, all of whom asked that Colaluca’s contract not be renewed.

Jill Avery told board members what would happen if they voted yes.

“If I see you at Giant Eagle or I see you in this community, I want you to understand what that look is, and it is a look of disappointment,” she said.

Assistant Superintendent Jeremy Batchelor talked about open enrollment, saying that those students are not lagging behind academically and are not causing excessive discipline problems.

He was the only one who spoke in favor of Colaluca.

“We absolutely believe that our superintendent, Mr. Colaluca, allows us to do our jobs, be creative, be innovative,” Batchelor said.

Before the debate on Colaluca, new board member Alex Benyo was sworn in. Some questioned if it was fair to make him vote.

“He has to make this vital, critical decision for our district tonight. Why does this have to happen tonight if it’s not for the benefit of one man?” Terra Evans asked.

Colaluca said nothing during the debate and just sat, listening.

Two and a half hours and 16 speakers later, the board took two minutes to decide by a 5-0 vote to table extending Colaluca’s contract.

Board President Kathy Mock then asked for everyone to calm down.

“All of this is playing out on social media. All of it is playing out in the media, whether it’s televised or print. This does not bode well for the Austintown Local Schools, nor does it bode well for this township.”

Most people are unhappy with Colaluca because open enrollment is now up to 795 students in Austintown, but dropping it would mean losing $4.7 million.

They’re also not happy with nine D’s and F’s on the recent school report card.

Colaluca’s contract expires July 31, 2017.

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