YOUNGSTOWN SCHOOLS Parents rate McGee lower than board
Some parents say the superintendent can't be singled out for the school system's low report card results.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Although the city school board gave mostly "excellent" marks on Superintendent Ben McGee's annual job evaluation, a group of parent leaders rates the performance somewhat lower.
"I can't see anything of great significance that I think he has anything to be responsible for," said Rose Freeman of the city's East Side, a member of the school board's parent advisory committee.
"I don't see any excellence," said Carla Burns, president of the Sheridan Elementary School parent-teacher organization.
Those were among the more critical comments from a group of seven parents interviewed about McGee's performance.
Like the seven-member board of education, the seven parents were asked to rate McGee's job performance from "excellent" to "unsatisfactory."
Three parents said "average," three said "above average" and one said "excellent."
In contrast, the school board gave McGee mostly "excellent" ratings when members evaluated him in late December.
The evaluation report, which ranks McGee in seven categories ranging from community relations to educational leadership, was released publicly last week.
It was the second consecutive year the board gave mostly "excellent" marks to McGee, a longtime district teacher and administrator who became chief executive of the region's largest school system in 1997.
McGee received the highest marks for personal qualities and educational leadership and the lowest ratings for staff and personnel relations.
Parents' thoughts: The Vindicator interviewed seven parent leaders from across the city and only one rated McGee "excellent."
"I haven't seen anything to be disappointed about," said Debbie Kalasky of the city's West Side, who has daughters at Chaney High School and Kirkmere Elementary School.
Kalasky complimented McGee for leading the district's $173 million facilities plan, which calls for building six new schools.
"He's working more with his teachers to implement more programs," she said. "I know there are new programs at Chaney to help the kids, which is nice to see."
Kalasky said she does not think McGee can be blamed for the district's recent report card ratings. The system met five of 27 minimum standards, among the worst showings in the state.
Agrees: Paul Graves, a member of the board's advisory committee who has three children in the city schools, also said McGee shouldn't be singled out for the low report card scores.
"So far, he's really doing a tremendous job, considering from whence he came," said Graves, who gave McGee an "above average" rating.
Jonetta Bonner, parent liaison at Williamson Elementary School, also ranked McGee "above average."
"When I deal with him, he answers my questions, he's an upfront man, he shoots straight from the hip and he doesn't sugarcoat," she said.
Sees some improvement: Bonner, who has a daughter at Hillman Middle School, said the school system was "a mess" when McGee took the helm.
"From the time he took over until now, we have made a lot of improvement," she said. "I know we still have a lot more to achieve, but I see our school system in a little bit better situation than it was."
Then why not give him an "excellent" rating? "No one's perfect," Bonner said. "If everything was excellent, we wouldn't be where we are right now, right?"
Freeman, who has two children in the city schools, said McGee needs to be held accountable for the low report card scores.
"If I had my way, my child wouldn't be in the Youngstown public schools," said Freeman, who rated McGee's performance as "average."
"It's just substandard to me."
Also placing McGee as "average" were Burns and Betty Bish, a volunteer at Martin Luther King Elementary School on the North Side.
Wants shift in emphasis: Burns complimented McGee's and the school board's efforts to rebuild school facilities, but she said too much emphasis is being put on the buildings and not enough on what is going on inside.
"I've seen a lot that he has done and I've seen things he says he's going to do but hasn't done yet, so I can't give him any kind of props," said Burns, who has two sons at Sheridan.
"They're talking too much instead of doing, and that's my whole thing: Stop doing all of the talking. Let's just get the job done."
Bish, whose granddaughter is in the third grade at MLK, credited McGee for helping to boost reading programs at the school.
"They need to spend more time on the basics, like math and arithmetic and that," she said. "If you don't have that, you aren't going to have none of the other, either."