City schools must have reform plan by July 1 1

By Harold Gwin

Planning will begin March 1 in Boardman.

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown city schools must have a plan to improve student academic performance by July 1, based on the charge given to a newly formed state Academic Distress Commission.

That’s the timetable handed down by Ohio law and reinforced by Deborah Delisle, state superintendent of public instruction, as she appointed the last three commission members Friday.

The commission has 120 days from its first meeting, set for March 1, to devise that plan.

Delisle’s appointments are:

UDebra Ann Mettee of Boardman: Current superintendent of the Springfield School District who has held positions as a high school teacher, supervisor of bilingual education and foreign languages and as an adjunct professor at the University of Akron. She has a master’s degree in education from Youngstown State University and is currently a doctoral candidate at YSU, focusing on educational leadership. Mettee is also a member of the Ohio Bar Association and will serve as chairman of the commission. She worked for the Youngstown schools for 19 years, holding a variety of posts from classroom teacher to personnel director. She left the district in 1997.

U James Hall of North Lima: Retired superintendent of South Range schools and current member of the Mahoning County Educational Service Center Governing Board. Hall earned a master’s degree from Kent State University and received an honorary doctorate from YSU. He more recently served as an interim human resources director for Youngstown City Schools.

U Sherri Lovelace-Cameron of Austintown: Associate professor in the department of chemistry at Youngstown State University. She has been instrumental in the development of programs that enhance K-12 teacher effectiveness through models that improve science learning. She has been selected as a Master Teacher by the College of Arts & Sciences and been designated a Project Kaleidoscope F21 Scholar. Lovelace-Cameron earned a doctoral degree in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh.

The three will join Kathie Garcia, a former teacher living in the city, and Betty L. Greene of Youngstown, a full-time faculty member in YSU’s department of teacher education, in serving on the five-member commission. Garcia and Greene were appointed by Anthony Catale, president of the Youngstown school board.

The commission will have its first meeting 2 p.m. March 1 at the Mahoning County Educational Service Center, 100 DeBartolo Place, Suite 220, Boardman. Mettee said the site was selected because it is a central location for the members of the commission.

Ohio law requires that an academic distress commission be established when a district receives a rating of “academic emergency” and has failed to make adequate yearly progress for four or more consecutive school years, based on the state’s local report card annual ratings.

This commission is Ohio’s first.

“The Youngstown City School District faces significant challenges,” Delisle said, “but I am confident that with the support of the community, this commission, district leaders and the Youngstown City School Board, [it] will be able to develop a plan to lift up the district and, most importantly, its students.”

“While the academic distress commission is entrusted with a great deal of responsibility, I believe an approach where the commission, school board and community work together to solve the district’s academic issues will benefit students the most,” she said.

The Ohio Department of Education, by law, has assigned an Academic Distress Commission to the Youngstown city schools to help devise an academic recovery plan designed to move the district from academic emergency to continuous improvement or better on its annual local report card issued by the state.

Goal: Improving a district’s academic performance.

Membership: Five members, three appointed by the state superintendent of public instruction, two by the local school board president.

Time frame: Within 120 days of its first official meeting, the commission must adopt an academic recovery plan that includes short- and long-term actions to improve performance, give the sequence and timing of those actions, identify resources that will be applied and outline procedures for evaluating improvement efforts.

Approval: The superintendent of public instruction has the authority to reject the plan and suggest acceptable modifications.

Assistance: The commission must seek input from the district board of education on ways to improve academic performance, but the authority’s decision is final.

Authority: The commission has the power to: Appoint school building administrators and reassign administrative personnel; terminate the contracts of administrators or administrative personnel; contract with a private entity to perform school or district-management functions. The commission has limited authority over new or renewing employee contracts to the extent that such contracts can’t render any commission decision unenforceable.

Longevity: The commission shall remain in operation until the district reaches the academic rating of continuous improvement or better for two of three consecutive years, but can be dissolved earlier by the superintendent of public instruction if the district has shown it can perform adequately on its own.

Source: Ohio Department of Education

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