Trustees said no YSU programs should suffer to finance the school.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Despite concerns over long-term funding for the project, Youngstown State University trustees voted to enter an agreement with the Youngstown school district to bring a high school onto campus this fall.
"I really believe this is the start of something significant for the district and the university," YSU Provost Tony Atwater said Thursday. "I think this is going to truly be a partnership that is going to further enhance the Valley and Youngstown."
Youngstown's incoming Superintendent Wendy Webb said the Youngstown Board of Education also has concerns about finances but must focus on what's best for students.
"Children don't all fit in one box. We're here to offer different opportunities," she said. "It's going to work because we're going to make it work. I don't think it's a question of whether we should do it. We've got to do it for the sake of our community, for the future of our community."
Targeting at-risk students
The high school for ninth through 12th grades would be housed in YSU's Fedor Hall and offer students access to up to 60 college credit courses by the time they graduate. Organizers say a first group of 75 students would represent at-risk students who show potential but are not thriving in a traditional high school setting.
Most otherwise would not likely graduate high school or go to college and will be the first in their families to attend college.
Atwater said the school also will help increase high school graduation rates and university enrollment, foster further collaborations between the university and district and contribute to work-force development.
YSU trustees discussed the issue after hearing support from YSU administrators, city school board members, Webb and current Superintendent Benjamin L. McGee.
Also voicing support was Joyce Brooks, coordinator of the Mahoning Valley Vision for Education, and Patricia Melton-Johnson of the Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation, which provided a start-up grant for the school.
Ohio ranks 39th among the states when it comes to adults with college degrees, and an early college high school is one of many diverse strategies being used to reform education, Melton-Johnson said.
KnowledgeWorks is one of 12 groups working to bring such schools to campuses across the country, she added, and there are currently 22 such schools with plans for 85 more. In Ohio, such a school is open at the University of Dayton, and an early college high school is set to open at Lorain County Community College in Elyria in 2005.
Though the measure passed unanimously, before the vote, discussion indicated that some trustees had concerns over the ability of YSU and the school district to keep such a program afloat financially. Among concerns was a budget forecast that shows the city school district in a deficit in 2008.
McGee and Atwater both said, however, that they are working to find external funding and that the initial success of the project would undoubtedly help the school obtain outside grants.
The school district will finance the high school, at an annual budget of $200,000, with in-kind support from YSU. The district also will pay 51 percent of tuition costs for any college courses students take.
Protecting other programs
Another concern among some trustees was whether any current YSU programs would suffer. As such, trustees amended an initial resolution to add a stipulation that no current academic programs at YSU would suffer to support the high school.
YSU initially will fund its portion of tuition costs with state grants that help Ohio residents pay for lower-level undergraduate courses and that fund programs aimed at helping at-risk students obtain undergraduate degrees.
John Habat, YSU's vice president for administration, said such grants have increased in recent years and the university would not have to take funds from other programs to support high school tuition.