Youngstown school board should think before it spends

Seven million dollars is a lot of money, and yet, it can be a pittance. It falls to the Youngstown Board of Education to sort out the paradox.
The board has received a $7 million windfall by virtue of its sale of 134,069 shares of stock in Anthem Insurance Companies Inc. The stock was distributed by Anthem when it converted from a mutual insurance company to a for-profit company.
Divided between 10,000 students, which is slightly below the present enrollment, that $7 million would provide about $700 each. That's about 10 percent of what is spent per student per year. But it's less than 1 percent of what's spent per student from kindergarten through 12th grade.
The Board of Education must utilize the money in the best way for the overall improvement of the school district and its pupils. The first thing board members should do is stop acting as if the money is burning a hole in their pockets.
Set the money aside, where it will earn nearly $12,000 a month even if the treasurer does nothing more than park it in a Star Ohio account at 2 percent.
And then talk about innovative ways of putting the money to the best possible use. Seek input from teachers, administrators, students and parents.
The danger of that approach is that there will never be enough money to go around, and so board members run the risk of making more enemies than friends. But that's the test of leadership.
One idea: We believe that one innovative approach would be to take a sizable portion of the money and create an endowment that would eventually be used to hire the district's next superintendent.
Superintendent Ben McGee has gotten reviews ranging from good to excellent for the job he has done the last five years, but eventually the 30-year veteran of the city school district will retire.
And when that happens, the district is not going to find someone to come to Youngstown for a salary of $85,000 or $90,000 a year. To attract an experienced, innovative administrator to Youngstown is going to take more than the board can allocate.
A decade ago, the Youngstown board was involved in a superintendency search in which the front-runner dropped out over a difference of less than $10,000 a year in salary. That led to the hiring of the board's second choice and to five wasted years, first because of upheaval during the administration of Alfred Tutela and then due to inertia under the care-taking of Joseph Conley
If the board had a fund on which it could have drawn to hire the best candidate it could find, Youngstown schools would be the better for it.
An auditorium would be nice but would serve only some students. Special programs, likewise, help some. But a dynamic leader, who comes to the district unencumbered by past alliances and with a fresh view of the future, serves all the students.
The Board of Education should think long and hard about what this found money could mean to the future of Youngstown's schools and students.

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