Thursday, January 19, 2012


Yesterday at 4:00 p.m., about 50 or so committed McKinley Bulldog supporters ("Johnson movement") of former head football coach Ron Johnson (as of Board action of January 9th) gathered at a Ironworkers 550 facility on High Avenue to rally the fan base in an effort to force the Canton BOE to reverse its action of the 9th and restore Johnson to his position.

All indications are that offending board members Nadine McIlwain, (a veteran member), Lisa Gissendaner and Ida Ross-Freeman (both newly sworn in earlier this month) are not changing their minds:  no way, no how!

In fact, the school administration at the direction of the board has started the process to find a replacement for Johnson.

This whole process has the makings of the situation somewhat similar to the on again, off again, on again removal (finally a negotiated resignation/retirement) of now former Stark County Treasurer Gary Zeigler.

Of course, the context is totally different but the prospect of a long drawn fight is eerily similar.

What's more, the damage that fights like these do to overall Stark County community cohesion has an erosive quality about it that will manifest itself in subtle ways for years to come.

Although this fight seemingly only involves Canton and its school system, the reality is that the Canton McKinley Bulldog football phenomenon reaches into every nook and cranny Stark as former McKinley players, graduates, current and former faculty and others with McKinley associations are fanned out over the entire county.

If McIlwain et al stick to their decision and the Johnson supporters follow through on their announced plan to force the removal of the trio board members, then this story has the makings of persisting as long as the Zeigler saga.

What the Stark County community should hope for is for a negotiated return of Johnson as coach with accountability criteria built in so as to assure his critics that their message has been heard and progress on resolving the complaints will be tracked in public view.

There is no doubt about the intensity on both sides of the Johnson issue.

The SCPR captured nearly an hour of video of yesterday's gathering.

First up is video of J.R. Rinaldi (who appears to be the main spokesperson for Johnson movement).

Rinaldi is a man with a history vis-a-vis board member McIlwain (note that she ran unopposed in 2001 and 2005) inasmuch as they have overlapped one another's terms as members, to wit:

They have had prior differences as Rinaldi describes one situation in the presented video.

In addition to Rinaldi, the SCPR videotaped various members of the Johnson movement and their take on the non-renewal.

All Stark Countians should be praying for a negotiated settlement of the Johnson issue.

Because as the SCPR sees it, if this fight goes "the full nine yards," then it will go on and on and on with no seeming end in sight as with the Zeigler situation.

Exactly what the city of Canton does not need!

Exactly what Stark County does not need!

If Coming Together Stark County is to mean anything in terms of credibility, then the Johnson matter is an opportunity for its executive director and and Canton BOE member Nadine McIlwain to step up to the plate and show that she can be a player in a real world situation and not merely a person who represents an organization that does good in a world of platitudes.

Will she do it?

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