Review of Webb calls for results

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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.”

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