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Review of Webb calls for results

Published: Thu, December 3, 2009 @ 12:09 a.m.


Youngstown City Schools Superintendent Wendy Webb, Tuesday, August 25, 2009.

There must be improvement, or the district must ‘move on,’ the board president says.

By David Skolnick

YOUNGSTOWN — In its annual evaluation, the city’s board of education told Superintendent Wendy Webb that the school district’s state designation of academic emergency “is unacceptable, and considerable strides [toward] an improvement designation must be made.”

The evaluation, provided by the Youngstown Board of Education after a records request by The Vindicator, also states: “Anything less than meeting the defined areas noted in this memorandum will continue to be unsatisfactory to us.”

Commenting on the evaluation, Anthony Catale, school board president, said, “It’s a mixture of strengths and weaknesses.”

At the top of the list of improvements Webb must make is “significant progress on our state report card. It’s how we’re gauged as a school district,” Catale said.

The annual state report card, released in August, had Youngstown as the only public school district in Ohio in “academic emergency,” the lowest rating the state gives. The report card gauges academic progress of students from year to year, with Youngstown meeting only two of the state’s 30 educational standards.

“We haven’t set a certain number of standards we want met [for the 2010 report card], but there has to be an improvement, or else we’ll have to move on,” Catale said.

When asked to explain “move on,” Catale said the school board would “look at anything and everything. All options are on the table.”

Though Catale said the school board hasn’t discussed firing Webb, superintendent since November 2003, “I’m not going to take that off the table. It’s always an option, but it’s not being considered now.”

Webb couldn’t be reached Wednesday by The Vindicator to comment on the evaluation.

The board wants improvements “in a multitude of areas and processes that we feel will ultimately have a direct impact on our district’s academic standing,” the evaluation reads.

That includes:

UA “user-friendly continuous improvement [plan] for each of our school buildings by Dec. 31.”

UGreater accountability of school-district leadership including “more rigorous staff development.”

UThe creation of a quality intervention program for students in both academics and behavioral issues.

The board praised Webb for her “vast improvement in communicating with all board members more effectively and efficiently.” The evaluation also stated, “The board acknowledges and appreciates your passion for the students of the Youngstown City School District.”

The only other favorable comment of Webb was also a criticism.

The board praised her involvement in civic, business, educational and philanthropic efforts but also cautioned Webb about “spreading herself too thin.”

Her “core responsibility” is to “ensure each and every child in the district [receives] a quality education,” the board wrote, suggesting Webb “delegate more responsibility” to other school officials.

The board also released its annual evaluation of Treasurer William A. Johnson after The Vindicator made a public-records request.

In the evaluation, the board wrote that it appreciated his “passion for ensuring the integrity and efficiency of your office; this includes your effective reorganization of the treasurer’s office.” The board hired Johnson in November 2007.

The only other compliment was for Johnson’s five-year forecast that “indicates our district to be solvent beginning at the end of FY [fiscal year] 2010. We, however, expect a great deal of additional hard work to maintain solvency.”

The board wants to see “greater accountability of all funds that are spent. To that end, we request annual reports” of every fund. The evaluation calls for Johnson to keep the board better informed of the district’s finances, including “communicating reports in lay terms.”

Johnson also couldn’t be reached Wednesday by The Vindicator to comment on the evaluation.

“Overall, we’re pretty satisfied with Mr. Johnson,” Catale said. “He needs to improve his communication skills.”



1boardmanneedschange(364 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Only in Youngstown. How can someone hold a position of power for six years, run their department directly to the worst rating in the state, and still get another chance to keep their job? SIX YEARS. I hate Youngstown. Perhaps if it were run like a business instead of a promotion machine for family members/friends and whomever can kiss the most arse, it could produce something other than the lowest school system rating in the state. Your city is a PUNCHLINE.

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2hardin54ja(20 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

About time! Thanks board. lay down the gauntlet.

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3Westsider(269 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

While I don't disagree with the earlier post (and in fact, do not think Dr. Webb should have been hired in the first place) we need to remember that the previous board extended her contract - in effect tying the hands of the current board members. A school district in fiscal emergency cannot afford to buy out the superintendent's contract. However, with this set of measurable goals, the stage has been set for her eventual removal. Unfortunately for the district and the board, this is a process - but the board is finally doing what needs to be done.

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4DOGON(3 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

I agree with the School Board President's assessment that things have to improve. However, I disagree as to where the point of change must start from. The President of the Board of Education established a hostile environment on the Board from the day he was installed into office.

He then, without prior knowledge or experience, rated the Superintendent's work unsatisfactory (although she had advanced the District from Emergency to Watch). He then proceeded to re-announce time and time again to all that would listen, that he was unhappy with the Superintendent's performance.

This in spite of the fact that it was the current Superintendent that lead the charge to bring the District out of Academic Emergency into Academic Watch, increased the graduation rate from 53% to 72%, and increased the number of schools in Continuous Improvement, Effective and Excellent beyond all of the Superintendents that served in the previous 10 years.

I would submit that the downgrading of the District, to Academic Emergency, has a lot more to do with the micromanagement and undermining activities of unqualified Board members, acting as pseudo-superintendents, as opposed to the failure of the Superintendent to continue the advancements she had already made in her previous 4 years.

We need to move beyond sitting Board members, who are frustrated pseudo-superintendents, to Board members who know how to create Win Win polices that can be turned into Strategies of Solutions . . . not just blaming someone who has already accomplished more in the past four years than they will in the next fours.

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