Webb gets mixed reviews from city school board

By Harold Gwin

Some criticized Youngstown’s superintendent for not keeping the board informed on issues.

YOUNGSTOWN — Members of the Youngstown Board of Education have a difference of opinion when it comes to judging the job performance of the district’s superintendent.

Overall, the board gave Wendy Webb a “satisfactory” rating of 5 (on a sale of 1 to 9) in an evaluation released earlier this month, down a notch from the “commendable” rating she received in November 2007.

A review of the individual board member evaluation forms shows they were widely split on how well they think Webb is doing her job.

Three — Anthony Catale, Dominic Modarelli and Michael Murphy — rated her overall performance as unsatisfactory.

Two — Lock P. Beachum Sr. and Shelley Murray — gave her a satisfactory mark, and two — Richard Atkinson and Jacqueline Taylor — gave her a commendable rating.

Catale, Murphy and Atkinson are new to the board this year.

Individual board member comments ranged from high praise to criticism.

“Dr. Webb established successful partnership with JJC [Juvenile Justice Center], Raymond J. Wean Foundation, Jobs and Family Services, Mahoning commissioners, the mayor’s office, Increase the Peace and local philanthropist [Tony] Lariccia,” wrote Taylor.

“Dr. Webb has an excellent understanding of administrative and regulatory procedures of public education. She has strong organizational and leadership skills,” Atkinson said.

“Academic plans are needed to remove the district from academic watch. Excuses should be replaced by what the district is doing to improve in areas of low rating,” wrote Beachum.

“It is clearly evident that she lacks the support of the community at large which is so desperately needed in order to have a school system that succeeds,” Catale said.

“[Webb] does not keep board informed of issues and operations of schools,” Modarelli wrote, claiming that the news media finds out things before board members do.

That was one of the most common complaints from the board, with four of them mentioning that the board isn’t being kept informed on issues, needs and operations.

Four board members were also critical of her supervision of operations, suggesting she doesn’t do a satisfactory job of insisting on competent and efficient performance.

Four were also critical of district spending, saying that Webb does an unsatisfactory job of determining that funds are spent wisely and that adequate control and accounting are maintained.

“It shows that the choices that have been made in the area of business and finance has shown a loss in students in the district and the defeat of the levy twice in the past year,” Modarelli wrote.

On the positive side, the superintendent drew high marks by four board members for devoting her time and energy efficiently to do her job, using language effectively in dealing with staff members, the board and the public and possessing the health and energy needed to meet her responsibilities.

She also drew support from three board members for interpreting and executing board policy, maintaining high standards of ethics, honesty and integrity, maintaining poise and emotional stability in her professional activities and earning respect and good standing among her professional colleagues.

“I have had the opportunity to speak with many of Dr. Webb’s colleagues. She is very well-respected in the professional community,” Murray wrote.

Webb, in a written response to the evaluation, pointed out that district spending didn’t exceed revenue until 2005 when state subsidy funds dropped drastically. Her cabinet began a reduction plan before the first actual deficit, she said.

The numbers continued to change, making it difficult to plan a balanced budget, she added.

She said she isn’t taking a defensive position regarding the evaluation but seeks to assure the board that she will make an effort in every area of the board’s recommendations to strengthen her leadership role in the district.

She said she will make every attempt to keep the board fully informed of media coverage related to the district, adding that she is aware of only two times that she was unable to do that in the past.

Webb said she fully recognizes that community relations is very significant and extremely important to the district, pointing out that she has launched community initiatives such as the Urban Congress, parent transition meetings and various other parent involvement groups as well as the Teacher of the Year dinner.

She said she intends to start a monthly curriculum newsletter to be sent to students’ homes and distributed to community stakeholders and organizations.

As the building construction program comes to a close, the district will sharpen its focus solely on a strategic plan to improve academic achievement, Webb said.

“I am committed to continued professional growth and the best academic achievement for our district,” Webb said.

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