State Superintendent Dick Ross talked to the State Board of Education in July about the Youngstown Schools Takeover:
He said he did not tell the school board because it was not his proposal. He said he was given written ideas from the group there, offered advice, but is not sure who had the legal language for the bill amendment written.
“It came from Youngstown,” Ross told the board, adding: “I provided assistance.” (The Plain Dealer, July 20, 2015)
“…not his proposal.”
“…not sure who had the legal language for the bill amendment written.”
“It came from Youngstown.”
Those statements are not even half-truths, they are outright lies.
As we’ve detailed on our four previous articles, Dick Ross co-created the Youngstown Cabinet with Kasich staff members, selecting the membership from the beginning. The cabinet was nothing more than a puppet group controlled by Ross to provide the appearance of the plan coming from Youngstown “leaders”. It was clear even after the legislation had passed that members didn’t even know what was in it:
In fact, though this meeting occurred after the plan was already legislated, notice that Judge Robert Douglas actually “endorses” the plan at this late date. Wait, wasn’t this “Youngstown’s plan” from the outset? Why is he “endorsing” it now?
It’s also humorous that this cabinet needed to start off the meeting by having the Kasich’s Director of Constituent Affairs in attendance to explain to the committee what has happened in their cabinet over the past ten months:
Shouldn’t that be the other way around? If this Youngstown cabinet was indeed driving this entire process, wouldn’t they be explaining to him what had occurred?
We’re now at the point of asking the million-dollar question: “Where did the legislation come from?”
Ross told the State Board that he didn’t know, yet he had the massive amendment in hand prior to the Senate Education Committee meeting and helped facilitate that insider knowledge with the Youngstown cabinet members so that they could testify about this “surprise” amendment at the one and only hearing on it, while the rest of the world was caught off guard.
On the date of June 24, when the amendment to takeover the Youngstown Schools was first presented to the public at the Senate Education Committee, five individuals presented testimony on HB 70. All five presented testimony in favor of the bill, but four of the five presented testimony on the amended bill, not the original bill (Melissa Cropper from the Ohio Federation of Teachers is the only one who submitted testimony on the previously existing version of HB70). See the image below:
What makes this even more fascinating is that the testimony had been submitted to Chair Peggy Lehner prior to this committee meeting. How did they all know about this “surprise amendment”?
As we know from our earlier articles, Ross had been in frequent communication with those “in Columbus” and the takeover plan and amendments to HB 70 had been looked at “favorably”. He reported this to the cabinet when they met on May 29.
The amendment was sent to Ross and select ODE staff on Friday, June 19, five days prior to the committee meeting, forwarded from Liz Connolly, the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Republican Majority Caucus in the Ohio Senate.
From there, it was sent to the members of the Youngstown Cabinet, with a solicitation for any questions/concerns (though remember, these individuals supposedly created the plan…):
And then, finally, the four members of the cabinet who would testify in favor of the amendment submitted their testimony to Senator Lehner’s office. But they did not submit their testimony individually, or via the cabinet, or via Dick Ross or ODE, or via Tom Humphries, their Columbus connection. No, their testimony came directly from Governor Kasich’s office and Merle Madrid:
While State Senator Joe Schiavoni (D) first got word of the amendment on the night of the 23rd, just hours before it was introduced, the private and secret cabinet had notice days in advance and their testimony had already been edited, revised, and submitted by the director from Kasich’s office, Merle Madrid:
And thus concluded the plan concocted by Dick Ross and Governor Kasich to take over the Youngstown City School District. They created a puppet committee to hide their actions, worked even more secretively behind this secret committee to pull the strings, convince the cabinet that this was “their plan”, and craft a plan and subsequent legislation to enact a state takeover of the Youngstown City School District without allowing the public to make one single comment, thanks to the “leadership” of Senate Education Chair Peggy Lehner (R) and the Republican-controlled House and Senate.
And what about Lehner’s role in pushing this through at the last minute “on behalf of the administration”? Was she surprised? Considering she sent ideas to Dick Ross back in September 2014 while he was in the process of forming the Youngstown Cabinet, it leaves us with still more questions…
What we do know, definitively, is that the takeover of the Youngstown City School District was not a plan concocted by Youngstown leaders. The emails and documents clearly show that the plan originated at the state level – Kasich’s office and Ross’s Ohio Department of Education. And we also know that Dick Ross has not yet been fully truthful nor held accountable for his role as the puppet-master.