Top job in Youngstown schools attracts interesting applicants

We aren’t prepared to declare that the academically and fiscally challenged Youngstown City School District will find the ideal superintendent from the list of 31 applicants made public last week. But, we will say that there are some who appear to have the qualifications and experience to fill the top post.

It is encouraging that 17 of the hopefuls have doctoral degrees in education. It suggests that professional educators see potential in the troubled urban school district and are undeterred by the state designated academic and fiscal emergencies.

The screening process that has been established by the Youngstown City School Board, led by President Anthony Catale, should enable the most qualified to rise to the top. But it won’t only be the 25-member search committee formed to conduct the initial evaluations of the applicants or the school board that participate in the selection. The state Academic Distress Commission will play a major role. That’s a good thing considering the commission has developed a recovery plan for the school district that has been approved by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Deborah Delisle.

The goal is to replace Superintendent Dr. Wendy Webb, who is retiring on Jan. 1, with an individual who has worked in an urban school district with a large number of at-risk students, and who is familiar with state proficiency testing. Indeed, one of the issues that should be explored during the interview process is why some inner city children perform well in school, while others don’t. What are the social factors that affect learning and are those factors found in the city of Youngstown?

As we’ve said in the past, time is running out for the school district. With all the pressures on the state budget and with growing demands from legislators that students, especially in failing systems, be given the choice of going elsewhere, attention is being paid to what is occurring in Youngstown.

It’s very simple: Success is measured by how well students do on the state tests.


The Academic Distress Commission’s recovery plan addresses all the issues that have contributed to the district’s failure, but implementation will depend on the superintendent and the school board.

Hence, the importance of finding the right candidate for the job.

Once the list of applicants is reduced by the screening committee, the school board will conduct interviews by telephone with those who make the cut.

Then, the finalists will be brought in for meetings with the board and for appearances at public forums. Residents will have the opportunity to hear from them and ask questions.

Finally, the distress commission will interview the finalists and must approve the board’s selection.

This process of filling the superintendent’s position is not only appropriate, but is necessary.

The children of the school district deserve every chance to succeed academically. It is the responsibility of the superintendent, the staff, the principals, teachers and the school board members to make that a reality.

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