On a night (January 9, 2012) when it was just getting organized, the Canton City Schools Board of Education (CCS-BOE) appears to have decided (i.e. members McIlwain, Gissendaner and Ross-Freeman) that matters are going too well in the Hall of Fame City and that they needed to stir things up a bit with their majority vote not to renew the contract of successful on the playing field Canton McKinley football coach Ron Johnson.
And cause a political raucous they have!
Yours truly already has received an e-mail from a reader on the controversy which was essentially a:
- who is to blame, and
- we need a recall in Ohio to get rid of the "radical" members of the board.
WHO OR WHAT IS TO BLAME?
Given the fact that Coach Johnson is white and the majority voting board members are black is suspicious to some that race may have played a role in the decision.
It has been pointed out that McKinley has never had a black head coach for football or basketball. And one does has to wonder why.
Race as being a factor is being denied by majority trio. And McIlwain did vote to renew Johnson a mere six months ago or so which appears to indicate she has no problem with a white man as McKinley's head football coach even in the face of history that mysteriously a black man has never had that honor.
The important consideration for the SCPR is not the suspicion or the denial but rather the overall perception of Canton residents, in particular, and Stark Countians, in general.
Stark Countians, in general?
Board Member Nadine McIlwain's calling card as its executive director is Coming Together Stark County (CTSC).
The Report's take on CTSC is that the organization is the Stark County political establishment's preferred vehicle for weighing in as being for improved race relations is Stark County.
One would think that a concern for Stark Countians who support the efforts of CTSC (as does the SCPR) is whether or not the CCS-BOE action (since it involves CTSC Executive Director McIlwain, albeit it in her school board member capacity) on Coach Johnson will be largely perceived by the Stark Countians as having racial overtones.
Like it or not, when one serves as an elected official every action, every vote (when one serves on a board) gets heavy public scrutiny and the general public will form an opinion/perception of the significance of a given action/vote.
For the social well-being of Stark County, the SCPR believes it is critically important that the public take on Johnson's non-renewal be that it had a clear and convincing non-race-connected underlying rationale.
Do the reasons given meet a "clear and convincing" standard which the SCPR thinks is an apropos standard given the superintendent's recommendation of renewal?
Board member Ida Ross-Freeman's alleges that Coach Johnson foments community divisiveness. Moreover, she says that Johnson was not communicating effectively with the players' parents. Board member Gissendaner appears to share Ross-Freeman's sentiments.
So does she mean to say that CCS Superintendent Michele Evans would recommend a person for rehire that is divisive and incommunicado?
The Report's take on McIlwain's comments to The Rep's Todd Porter (One voter's change of heart, January 16th) is that they are of pretty much of the "difference of opinion" variety, to wit:
“I can’t say what changed. It’s difficult, without revealing information that was revealed to me in executive sessions, to say what changed. I wish there would have been more outreach from the coach to parents and the community. It sounds like we’re blaming him. We’re not necessarily blaming him. People are who they are. Part of the job of a coach is not only to coach the team, but secure the fan base.”
"... . There are strong Ron Johnson supporters, and there are strong non-Ron Johnson supporters. I’ve heard equal voices.”Isn't a difference of opinion between the school administration and a majority of the board indication of being anything but "clear and convincing?"
Regarding Ross-Freeman's comment to Charita Goshay of The Rep (Coaching controversy just latest chapter in life of social activist, January 16), "We need to get our community back together," it is a bit more than ironic to the SCPR that she would make that comment given what the coach axing of January 9th in and of itself has done to the Canton school community.
To The Report, such a comment in the light of CTSC countywide objectives indicates a disconnect thinking process in that the contrast suggests that she and her fellows do not understand that lacking clear and convincing reasons for their action they risk undermining the CTSC's effort to have all of Stark County come together.
Appearances are that Ida Ross-Freeman, though just elected, is the lead person in the action taken.
It seems to The Report that Ida Ross-Freeman may be ill equipped to be a board member. Put simply, in the opinion of yours truly, the Canton voting public made a huge mistake in placing her on the board. Perhaps she will grow on the job. But as matters stand now, the CCS-BOE could be on a rocky path for the next four years.
When the vote came in on the eve of November 8th showing that she had won the second of final spot of three running for the position, there was expressed disbelief (as witnessed by yours truly) among some community leaders who know her well.
In a videotape interview with Goshay, Ross-Freeman overstates the volume of her votes ("over 6,000;" the real number 5,396) and then unbelievably muses as to whether not there is a law which would permit her to be both a board of education member and a member of Canton City Council inasmuch as she sees a need to correct some misinformed (in her assessment) decision(s) recently made by council.
Readers should make a point to see the Goshay's interview. Make a judgment of your own as to whether or not Ross-Freeman presents as having the gravitas to be a board member.
So the winners Ross-Freeman and Gissendaner only received plurality votes; not majority votes. All the more reason why they should seek to reassure the community that they are in touch with the entire community and not a specific constituency, no?
Another interesting statistic is that Cantonians (having two votes per voter, but only to vote for two "different" candidates, if at all) could have cast 27,840 votes.
How many were actually cast?
16,981 or about 61% of the total potential which means that Canton voters were so unimpressed with the trio that some 10,850 potential votes were not voted.
As a sidenote, had former board member Eric Resnick not been disqualified from the ballot for not getting enough valid signatures, he likely, along with Gissendaner would have been elected and perhaps a Johnson non-renewal controversy would not be on the table.
SO IF CANTON VOTERS WERE SO UNIMPRESSED AND IN LIGHT OF THE JOHNSON DECISION, IS A RECALL IN THE OFFING?
Ohio does not have a recall process as such.
And the law Ohio has is so burdensome that detractors of former Stark County treasurer Gary D. Zeigler were unwilling to invoke it in order to change the Ohio Supreme Court result restoring Zeigler to office after finding that the Stark County commissioners had unconstitutionally removed him.
A 2004 communique from the Ohio School Board Association puts the procedure this way:
Ohio does not have a statute that permits voters to recall elected public officials. Instead it has a series ofstatutes (Ohio Revised Code (RC) Sections 3.07-3.10) that permit the removal from office of a public officialfor misconduct in office. RC 3.07 specifically provides that a public official, including a school board member “… who willfully and flagrantly exercises authority not authorized by law, refuses or willfully neglects toenforce the law or to perform any official duty imposed uponhim by law, or is guilty of gross neglect of duty, gross immorality, drunkenness, misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeasance is guilty of misconduct in office.”
RC 3.08 provides the procedure to initiate removal of a public official. It requires that petitions specifically setting forth the charge must be signed by qualified electors residing in the school district totaling 15% of the total vote cast for governor in the most recent election. If that number of signatures is obtained on petitions, the petitions are then filed in the court of common pleas. After notice to the public officials against whom theSo it appears to The Report to be impossible to remove public officials from office in Ohio over such things as a disagreement over whether or not a supplemental football coaching contract is renewed.
charges are filed, a hearing is held before the judge (or in some cases a jury) and the judge renders a decision as to whether the charges have been proved and whether they warrant removal of the individuals from public office.
And that is as it should be.
In time the renewal controversy will blow over.
The concern should be whether or not the controversy has set back the overall cause of Coming Together Stark County!