‘Students are being shortchanged’
The commission plans to start writing a recovery plan for Youngstown in April.
By Harold Gwin
BOARDMAN — “Despite good intentions, things have not gone well and students are being shortchanged,” said the chairman of the state Academic Distress Commission appointed to help the Youngstown City School District improve student academic performance.
Debra Mettee, superintendent of the Springfield schools, was named chairman of the five-member Academic Distress Commission by the state superintendent of public instruction and oversaw the commission’s first meeting Monday at the Mahoning County Educational Service Center.
Youngstown is the only public school district in the state rated in academic emergency by the state, and state law mandates the creation of a distress commission to devise an Academic Recovery Plan for the district.
The commission has an aggressive schedule, charged with coming up with a plan for Youngstown within 120 days. It will be meeting weekly as it gathers information from the district and the state and plans to begin writing the recovery plan by mid-April, Mettee said.
“Our focus will be positive,” she said, noting that the commission has not time for punitive issues or negative comments. It won’t dwell on negatives or past failures, she said, adding that the goal will be to get the best of the best into a plan that will fit the district.
There is incentive across the Mahoning Valley to help Youngstown succeed, Mettee said.
The bulk of Monday’s meeting dealt with hearing a report from Youngstown Superintendent Wendy Webb on the proposed five-year academic strategic plan the district has had in development for two years.
The document is nearing completion, she said, acknowledging that the commission may alter it or use it as part of a plan of its own design for the district.
Youngstown had to start moving forward on its own and couldn’t afford to wait for another year to pass while the commission did its work and a new plan was implemented, Webb said.
The district’s strategic plan creates conditions to improve reading and math achievements, provides a new master plan for English language learners, provides an extensive intervention plan, focuses on aligning curriculum with state educational standards and keys on attendance and behavior, Webb said.
There will be new summer programs targeting specific student groups and a drive to increase parental support, she said.
Mettee said the commission will take all the data it can gather to craft its own plan, which must be presented to the state superintendent of education around the end of June.
Information gathering meetings are already being scheduled with the state fiscal oversight commission controlling Youngstown school finances, the Youngstown teachers’ union, district family organizations, the Youngstown school board and state support teams.
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