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‘This is a sobering time’ for city schools, state says

Published: Wed, January 13, 2010 @ 12:09 a.m.


Deborah Delisle

By Harold Gwin

The commission has broad powers, including authority to fire administrators.

YOUNGSTOWN — The state superintendent of public instruction delivered a somber message to the city school board Tuesday.

“This is a sobering time for the Youngstown School District,” Deborah Delisle told the board as she announced that a state Academic Distress Commission soon will be in place to guide the district’s efforts to improve student achievement.

The commission has broad powers, including the authority to terminate administrators.

Delisle said the five appointments to the commission — three by her and two by the school board president — must be made within 30 days, and the commission will have 120 days after its first meeting to come up with an acceptable academic- recovery plan.

The school board had been awaiting Delisle’s visit for months, as the Ohio Department of Education ranked Youngstown in academic emergency, the lowest possible rating, on its 2009 state local report card in August.

Delisle said then that Youngstown would be the first district to get the services of a distress commission under a 2007 law that requires a commission appointment in a district that has been declared to be in academic emergency and has failed to make adequate yearly academic progress for four or more years.

She said Tuesday that the delay was due to this being the first commission in the state, and state officials wanted the intent of the law to be clear and the system ready to go before the commission was activated.

“You are facing a difficult future as a board,” she told the school board.

Students are relying on the adults to do the right thing in addressing academic needs, she said, warning that “window-dressing” changes won’t provide the systemic changes needed for Youngstown to improve academically.

The city school district will have to pick up the tab for the commission’s work, Delisle said.

That’s bad news for a school district that also is in fiscal emergency and struggling to return to fiscal solvency. Just what it will cost is unknown, but the commission will hire a secretary, and there will be travel and other expenses to be paid.

Delisle said Youngstown might have gotten some help with that bill if it had submitted an acceptable application for funding under the federal Race To the Top program, a grant program channeled through the states and funded with federal recovery funds with a goal to improve academic achievement.

Superintendent Wendy Webb said Youngstown will lose out on a minimum of between $2 million and $2.5 million in Race To the Top Funds because its application was rejected by the state.

The application required the signatures of the superintendent, the school board president and the president of the teachers’ union. Webb said she and the board president signed, but the union wouldn’t.

William Bagnola, teachers’ union president, said several of the conditions of the application as required by the state would violate the teachers’ collective bargaining agreement.

Specifically, the union objects to a requirement that higher- performing teachers be assigned to work in schools with lower- performing students. Youngstown staffing now is done by seniority under the union contract, Bagnola said.

The union also has concerns with a plan to tie teacher evaluations to student performance in a district with high-poverty, high-minority enrollments, he said.

The union further objects to a plan to phase out schools ranked in the lowest 5 percent of academic performance, either by closing them, replacing them with charter schools or creating gender or special science or technology schools, he said.


SEE ALSO:Youngstown BOE to hire law firm to challenge state oversight panel.


1UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

The union is right except for the school closings. Why should the highest seniority teaschers be forced to go work with the worst of the worst Youngstown students? Superintendent Wendy Webb needs to be FIRED!!! She's as worthless as a teat on a boar hog.

It's so sad to see the Y-town schools now seen by the mostly poverty stricken students as a place to go for breakfast & lunch and too keep warm who's parents don't give a crap about their education at all..

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2hellsbells(116 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Deborah Delisle now reveals herself as just another liar. The Ohio Department of Education couldn't even get a half of the states school districts to sign onto the Race to the Top grant. Why?

The federal government is asking states to sign on to work on a plan that is not yet devised, for an amount of money they cannot specify. On about April 28th, a district is supposed to find out how much money it will receive, as little as $0. Then the district is supposed to go into a summer of planning.

Would the Youngstown district at that time throw out the new Commission plan? Or will the Commission throw out the new Ohio Improvement Plan that the state just coerced the district to form?

By the way, if the state receives the maximum federal grant, $400 million, $200 million will stay in Delisle's Department of Education in Columbus. The $200 million for districts will be doled out over 4 years, so make that $50 million in a year. Then realize that Columbus and Cincinnati have signed on, and that the grants will be divided proportionally. 250 districts signed on. That would be $200 thousand is it were divided equally, which it won't be. The annual budget for Columbus schools has to be huge. They will get millions, leaving little for small districts.

A lot of plan-writing, just to avoid looking at the reality of what the state has created here by drawing away the middle class students into its other options.

A teacher can help your child reach his greatest potential, but she doesn't have a wand to transform your child into someone else.

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3tookie(64 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

The failure of the district to have a unified effort in seeking federal dollars is indicative of the problems facing the district. There is plenty of blame to go around starting with Wendy Webb's leadership but the unions appear to be the main obstacle. They are going to hide behind their contract while the walls are falling down. I hope the commission will have the ability to make changes that will be override the union's intransegence in working as a team to try and solve these incredible problems.

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4hellsbells(116 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Let me be clearer. D. Delislie, the Superintendent of Ohio schools understands well the lack of coherent leadership from the central office of Youngstown City Schools.

She also knows that the money offered by the grant is no where near the amount needed to take Youngstown City Schools out of fiscal emergency. It may be enough to pay for the mileage of the members of the Academic Commission, depending on whether she picks members from nearby or far away.

Her concern with the Race to the Top grant is whether Ohio will be one of the few favored "winners" of the grant for the sake of her own office expenses, because that is where the bulk of the money will go. Whether it is good for the districts or not, she wants them all to act as if they are on board with the application, in order to impress the federal Department of Education and Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education.

The grant application contained "assurances" that districts must address, which continue to judge the whole education of a child on the basis of a single standardized test given once a year. I do not know of any experienced educator at any level who agrees that this is a good thing.

My hat is off to districts and unions who held to their beliefs in the face of pressure from the Ohio Department of Education and the Governor to throw their convictions out the door because a sum of money is offered. There's a name for behavior like that and it isn't pretty.

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