Wednesday, August 26, 2009


As a rule public school board members and do not respond to media requests for answers to questions.

Since yours truly has been blogging on Stark County political issues and education issues, the "blow-off" rate by Stark County board members and officials they hire to run the public institutions has been very high.

One of this is not James Carmen, Jr., president of the Canton City Schools Board of Education.

So he is an "exception" to the rule and is a model for all Stark County education officials to follow.

Board members and school officials across Stark County wonder why they have troubles getting public participation and public financial support. It is no mystery to the SCPR. Far too many board members and school administrators - over many years now - have "blown off" the public. Now the chickens are coming home to roost.

Only the likes of James Carman, Jr. and his accessibility/openess offer any hope to reversing the public negativity. But it is going to be a long road back even if they were to adopt the Caman model today.

A reader of the SCPR asked yours truly to get some answers on a matter of concern on a neighborhood issue involving the Canton City Schools and the former Lehman High School/Junior High School building.

Here is the question:
... [Regarding Lehman] the "new" building was sold to the public with a "plan" for the use of the old building. But, neither the school district nor the city have done anything with the old building except let it sit there and decay, with the decay spreading to the neighborhood. The CCS and the city both say that no one will buy it....but what methods have they used to try and sell it? Even if they sold it for $1.00 it would be used by someone else, and the neighborhood would improve. Let them sell it on ebay or something creative like that!
Here is Canton City Schools board president James Carmen, Jr's answer (bulleted by the SCPR for structural clarity):

  • Unfortunately as for the public being told there was a plan for the old building when construction of the new building was announced, I have to apologize and admit I don't know what that plan would have been.
  • The district wide renovation project that was done in partnership with the Ohio School Facilities Committee was planned in 1999 and begun shortly there after.
  • The plan was done in partnership with the OSFC, the school district's administration and the board of education. Since that time the OSFC has gone through many configurations and the district has had four different superintendents, two business managers and there is currently no board member serving that was on the board at the time.
  • If there was some sort of plan for the building established at the time it has apparently been lost through the transitions.
  • Honestly, I am not sure why there was not money allocated for the demolition of the old building as was the case with several of our other buildings (Cedar Elem, Worley Elem and Belden Elem just to name a few). My only guess would be that Lehman Middle School was, up until 1976, Lehman High School and several influential citizens are alumni from that building which may have made the idea of demolition unattractive at the time.
  • .... What I do know, is that we currently have a decaying building that we are responsible for and we need to either find a use for the building or find money for demolition. Currently we are exploring both options. Demolition is estimated to cost in excess of $1 million and the district currently does not have the funds available for such a project. The district has also been working with local developers to try and find someone interested in renovating the building (early estimates on renovation have ranged from $10 to $15 million), to date we have been unsuccessful in our efforts. In the meantime, we have met with both the Lehman neighborhood association and the Lehman alumni association to combine our efforts to find a use for the site. We have also taken steps to better secure the building to hopefully stop future vandalism.
  • As for your emailer's suggestion to randomly sell the building on ebay for $1.00, that is actually something we have promised the neighborhood association we would not do. Whether the building is renovated or torn down there is a hefty price tag associated with it and we do not want to turn the building over to a private individual that does not have the means to do something with the property. If a private individual is holding the building, the neighbors have very little say, if we continue to hold the property the neighbors can have more input in what happens to it. They also can hold us accountable if they do not feel it is being maintained properly, which they have recently done.
  • The district was not doing a good job in maintaining the property and we have committed to the neighbors that we will do a better job.
  • ... we are working to do something with the property as soon as possible and we are doing everything we can to keep it from being a problem for the neighborhood.
To the SCPR, this is a splendid example of being accountable!

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