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Youngstown school district at an important crossroads

Published: Sun, December 6, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

The challenges confronting the Youngstown City School District are enormous. Being rated the worst academically performing system in the state of Ohio, coupled with state-designated fiscal emergency, is a one-two punch that has the community reeling. As a result, the question being asked with greater regularity has to do with the ability of Superintendent Wendy Webb to select the right road to recovery, academically and fiscally.

Dr. Webb, who has led the district since November 2003, has been served notice, in a manner of speaking, that the district must get out of academic and fiscal emergency in the not too distant future or her tenure may come to an end.

To her credit, the superintendent has accepted responsibility for what has occurred and has acknowledged that continue failure is not an option. Such an attitude is important, especially in light of comments made last week by the president of the board of education, Anthony Catale, that “significant progress on the state report card” is the norm by which Webb will be judged.

“We haven’t set a 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.”

If members of the board of education are serious about holding Webb responsible for the district’s performance, they should develop a set of standards for her to meet. They have a valuable resource to help them in this task: the state Academic Distress Commission, which is being assigned to the Youngstown City School District.

The state superintendent of education has said that the panel will assist the district in developing a strategy to improve academic performance, but the commission needs to be more.

What works?

The school system has failed because those in charge, starting with the superintendent, have failed to stop the decline. They need to be told what works and what doesn’t.

Thus, Catale and his colleagues should make it clear to the Academic Distress Commission that they expect the same kind of aggressive leadership the district has received from the state Fiscal Oversight Commission.

When the city school system was placed in fiscal emergency by the state in November 2006, the commission came in and laid down the law. It took over the district’s finances, and for the last three years has set the fiscal direction. Spending has been slashed by more than $32 million, mostly through the elimination of 520 jobs.

Now, the board of education has told Webb that additional spending cuts must be instituted so that an emergency tax levy approved in the fall of 2008 and due to expire in about three years will not have to be renewed.

Board member Lock P. Beachum does not agree with the chairman of the state fiscal oversight commission, Roger Nehls, that the five-year forecast makes it almost certain that renewal of the 9.5-mill levy will be required.

Beachum has correctly concluded that the residents of the Youngstown district cannot keep paying the property tax.

Thus, the challenge confronting Dr. Webb and her staff is how to cut spending without crippling academic programs that are necessary for the district’s improvement in the state report card.

The state is making the rules, it must provide the guidance.


1lizzie4444(9 comments)posted 6 years, 7 months ago

What do you expect from an incompatent adminstration??

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2lizzie4444(9 comments)posted 6 years, 7 months ago

What 520 jobs were eliminated? Did the state start at the top? Take a look at the successful school systems. Are they as top heavy as YSD?
Qualified leaders? Let core teachers and administration set their curriculum. Many of them (including chairpersons) have master's degrees in curriculum! District curriculum supervisors are a over a quarter of a million (salary and benefits) alone!! What about their support staff (salary and benefits). The house needs cleaned top to bottom. Then and only then can there be a clear vision for improvement.

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3Silence_Dogood(1677 comments)posted 6 years, 7 months ago

Failure starts at the top. The Board of Education!Webb is a failure because the Board let her be a failure, either hold her by the hand and do her job for her or kick her in the backside and out the door.

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4FutureWatch(8 comments)posted 6 years, 7 months ago

The comment "the Board of Education!Webb is a failure because the Board let her be a failure" could be said about any board. Look at Forum and there are several non-profit boards that have made the news along with other schools and local governments. Boards of Directors are always willing to pass off their responsibiilty to a paid staffer without any accountability or expectation of what they are suppose to accomplish.

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5harleydog(243 comments)posted 6 years, 7 months ago

This superintendent needs to go NOW. No more excuses. If she hasn't done the job since 2003 what makes the Board think that things will change for the better now. She must go and the new Super along with the Board should be put on notice that things must change in the short term and quit making excuses for everything. I would suggest that all of the Board members submit their resignations so that we may get new members and fresh ideas to try and correct this problem school district.

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6UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 6 years, 7 months ago

Webb hasn't a clue how to turn the schools around. Kick her arse out of that job today.

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7leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 6 years, 7 months ago

The Youngstown school district is NOT at an important crossroads. It is completely OFF the road, OFF the shoulder of the road, OVER the cliff, and DOWN the ravine!!!

The school board hasn't yet set the standards Webb is supposed to meet???? Why the heyho not? What's going on here, Youngstown?

People, public education may not be perfect, but there was a time when students got at least a basic education and we're not seeing even that anymore. It isn't economics, sociological issues, or the amount of money that we're paying the teachers. This is a system that gives all the signs of nobody caring anymore.

Nothing short of a full dismantling and re-building of the system is going to solve this problem. The top administration should be fired, and NOT replaced until the system has been re-configured. EVERY teacher should be tested, to see if they can even pass a basic knowledge test. (and here's my personal wager: many of them would flunk) Security should be heavy; and standards for student performance must be high and enforced.

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8boardmanneedschange(364 comments)posted 6 years, 7 months ago

Perhaps bringing back public stonings should be in order for this administration...

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9leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 6 years, 7 months ago

boardmanneedschange, It would be a waste of good stones.

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