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SCHOOLS N. Elementary project to start in early 2006



Published: Thu, April 14, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



An audit showed academic gains in the district, with room for improvement.

YOUNGSTOWN -- Work on another new school for Youngstown -- the $6.5 million North Elementary School -- is expected to begin in March 2006 and be finished by fall 2007, school officials were told this week.

Architects were on hand at the board of education meeting Tuesday to present a detailed site plan for the 56,000-square-foot facility that will be built on the site of the existing school near Mariner Avenue on Youngstown's East Side. It will be adjacent to where the new P. Ross Berry Middle School will go up.

Summer Barker, an architect with MS Consultants Inc. of Youngstown, said the school will feature a courtyard for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten kids and have a 450-pupil capacity, as well as a drop-off area for seven buses in front of the building.

Curriculum audit

In other business, the board heard the results and recommendations of a curriculum management audit conducted last October by Phi Delta Kappa International of Bloomington, Ind. The audit looked at state standards and how closely school operations were following them, said Tony Direnzo, director of school improvement.

Auditors focused on organizational controls, long-term financial management, curriculum management and student performance.

Among the findings were gains in student achievement, as measured by Ohio Proficiency Test results, with room for improvement; a need for more documentation of what is being taught according to written guides; and a need to implement a curriculum management plan with more information for school officials to ensure kids are getting what they need in the classroom.

The team also found that the district has been making academic progress since coming out of fiscal emergency and that staff members expressed positive attitudes toward the schools.

Auditors' recommendations included adopting an organizational chart and adjusting some job descriptions; developing procedures to guide long-term management of various grant programs; and integrating into a curriculum management plan more technology use, professional development, student assessment and program evaluation.

Another recommendation called for switching from a line-item to a program-driven budget to fund various programs, Direnzo noted. Such a change is necessary partly because many district projects receive funding from outside, and a better approach is needed to choose among programs that compete for resources, he added.

Judy Hatchner, director of curriculum and instruction, said the board requested the audit and officials have been working on several key recommendations.

"We wanted to know where we are and how we can be the best we can be," Hatchner said.

Superintendent Wendy Webb added that such an audit gives officials added tools to rebuild part of the district's "infrastructure."

It is a process to guide teachers, administrators and others toward helping students achieve excellence in learning, she added.

In other business

Also at the meeting, several members of the Youngstown Underground Railroad Project spoke about research they are conducting on the Kyle/McCollum house on Youngstown's West Side. The students' work centers on whether the home, at 1458 McCollum Road, was once used as a station on the Underground Railroad to hide former slaves.

The project began in summer 2004 and was the idea of former Superintendent Benjamin L. McGee, who saw the hands-on experience as a way to increase their interest in history.




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