Trustees will discuss the proposal again Thursday.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- As educators in Youngstown work toward a fall opening of a high school at Youngstown State University, plans hit a snag this week when budget numbers received a lukewarm response from some YSU trustees.
The Youngstown Early College High School would offer a combined high school and college experience for at-risk inner city youngsters who otherwise might not graduate high school or think about higher education, supporters say. The school would start this fall with 75 students on the second floor of YSU's Fedor Hall and eventually accommodate 400 students.
Dr. Robert Bolla, dean of arts and sciences, presented trustees with a budget document this week, showing the Youngstown schools paying 51 percent of student tuition costs, with YSU paying the rest from state grants earmarked for programs that seek to increase college attendance among at-risk students and to improve timely graduation rates.
Bolla said the school has initially been supported with a start-up grant of about $105,000 from the Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation, affiliated with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It would be the third such school in Ohio, and YSU President David C. Sweet has said the project could place Youngstown at the forefront of a new education model.
YSU trustees swapped opinions about such a school during a committee meeting Thursday and will meet again next week to discuss the matter further.
Concern over other programs
Voicing the most concern was Larry E. Esterly, who called on YSU administrators to show trustees what YSU programs would lose if state grants were moved into the Early College High School program.
Esterly also said the city schools could offer the same opportunities in other ways. He pointed out that Youngstown is building one new high school and also is restructuring its high-school curriculum to divide students into smaller learning communities.
"That's conducive to many of the things we would hope for in this initiative," he said. "Why would we move 75 students -- ultimately 400 -- from that high school environment to bring them to Fedor Hall? I don't see how that's constructive with what the public schools are doing to revamp the school system."
Voicing strong support for the plan were trustee Millicent S. Counts and student trustee Charity Peters.
"I think we have a social obligation," said Counts, who serves as executive director of the United Methodist Community Center. "My life has been dedicated to these people, and I know what they can do when you give them a slight opportunity. We have an opportunity here to try something new and innovative."
Peters noted that the school will not only provide a positive learning atmosphere for inner city students but will also give YSU education majors hands-on experience teaching an inner city population.
"Why can't you invest a little in a child and a school to make this a better community?" she asked. "I think this Early College is going to show kids the importance and the value of learning."
Esterly further argued that the Youngstown schools is facing a projected deficit in 2006 and has not formally adopted a financial agreement drafted between the district and the university. He also told trustees that YSU has experienced an erosion of state funding and continues to face the possibility of tuition increases each year.
"Ultimately the costs of this fall on YSU," he said. "I hope for all the real possibilities of good that can be seen in this initiative, you also weigh in your fiduciary responsibility to this institution."
John Tullio, a Youngstown schools' district administrative specialist, said the school will be a success if supporters can get everyone to believe in it. He said Youngstown school officials are accepting applications from interested eighth-graders and will meet with parents before selecting the first 75 pupils.
"These are at-risk kids who show potential but, for a variety of reasons, just aren't working up to that potential. Research has shown that if you put them in an environment like this, they do succeed," Tullio said.
Bolla added that educators must try something different when it comes to educating high school students.
"This is something that gives kids who never thought they could have a success a success," Bolla said, "and because they have that success, they'll put college in their long-term plans."