About 100 sign Green petition

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 3, 2008

FRANKLIN FURNACE — For the second time in a month the Green School District is the object of a community-driven petition campaign. This time the aggrieved citizens want a school board ousted.

Last week about a dozen residents from Franklin Furnace started circulating petitions online and door to door to register their dissatisfaction toward the school district’s board of education.

The online petition states “We, the undersigned, being registered voters in the community, are presenting this petition as a formal request for the resignation of the following Board of Education members: Steve Willard, Dave Sparks, Ralph Salyers, Kevin Lewis and Jeremy Carver.”

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So far they have gathered a total of 100 signatures. The group plans to present the petitions at the board’s April 21 meeting.

“We can’t actually remove them from the board, but we are trying to tell them the community is not behind them in their decision,” Sandy Cherry, Green High track and volleyball coach, said.

That decision is the board’ refusal to renew the contract of Green High principal David Hopper, who in his six years as leader of the school has raised graduation rates 15 percent; improved attendance; and reduced disciplinary problems, the petitioners say.

They contend the non renewal is because of Hopper’s two unsuccessful seasons as the school’s basketball coach. School officials have denied that, but have not stated any reasons for their decision publicly.

On two separate occasions parents protested Hopper’s leaving at board meetings and presented petitions with 248 signatures in support of Hopper.

“I don’t know which other way to go. The community is upset,” Loretta Dixon, a Green High parent who started both petition drives, said. “The community can ask them to step down and put someone in their place who has our kids’ best interest at heart.”

There is no statute in Ohio that allows voters to recall elected public officials, according to the Ohio School Board Association Web site.

However, a series of statutes does enable the removal of a public official for misconduct in office under certain conditions.

Four years ago a citizens’ group sought the recall of four members of the Madison-Plains Local School Board and filed petitions with 700 names with the Madison County Court of Common Pleas. A two-week hearing resulted in a 130-page judicial decision ordering the removal of three of the board members, the Web site states.

Among the judge’s findings were that the board members had violated the Ohio Open Meetings Act and Ohio Public Records Act “by repeatedly holding lengthy executive sessions, followed by brief public sessions at which votes were conducted but no discussion on matters before the board was held.”

Besides the petition drive Dixon is organizing a town meeting to be held before the next school board session.

“People are really, really upset about this,” Dixon said. “What makes it bad is we are at such a crucial point with the steel mill coming in, trying to build a new school, trying to get funding. They absolutely wouldn’t try to pass (a levy) right now.”

A phone call was made to the office of School Superintendent Ron Lindsey Wednesday who was said to be out of town for the week. A call made to school board president Steve Willard’s law office was not returned at press time.