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Youngstown school board must make right decision

Published: Sun, May 16, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

Superintendent Dr. Wendy Webb’s announcement last week that she will be retiring on Jan. 1, 2011, seven months before the expiration of her contract, caught the Youngstown Board of Education by surprise. But, viewed objectively, Webb’s decision is in the best interest of the financially and academically embattled school system.

The district has been in fiscal emergency since 2006 and has been in academic emergency since late last year. It has the distinction of being the worst academic performing system in the state of Ohio.

As a result, there are two commissions overseeing the district’s operation: the first, guiding its fiscal recovery; the second, developing an academic blueprint to improve Youngstown’s “F” grade.

Webb has been superintendent since 2004, which means she bears responsibility for the district’s collapse. Indeed, last December, school board President Anthony Catale said that while the school board hadn’t discussed firing Webb, “I’m not going to take that off the table.” His comments were made in the context of the board’s annual evaluation of Webb, which said the designation of academic emergency “is unacceptable and considerable strides [toward] an improvement designation must be made.”

Dr. Webb’s decision to retire not only spares her the indignity of being terminated by the board if she failed to meet the performance standards established last year, but it opens the door to a national search for a successor.

As a first step, Catale should meet with Scott Schulick, president of the Youngstown State University board of trustees, who organized and directed the search for a successor to YSU President Dr. David Sweet.

Screening committee

The key ingredient in the search was a 25-member screening committee that was made up of several trustees, other university officials and business and community leaders. In addition, a paid consultant was invaluable not only in developing the specifications for the job and putting together a national advertising campaign, but also in conducting the background reviews and helping to whittle the applications down to a manageable number. The ultimate decision was made by the board of trustees from four finalists.

The Board of Education should also use the two state commissions as resources in establishing the criteria for the next superintendent.

When Webb was hired in 2004, the argument was made that having someone from Youngstown with roots in the school system was necessary given the challenges confronting the urban school district.

Now, however, the system needs a superintendent with creativity and experience in turning around a failing urban school district.

Webb has given the school board a gift of time to conduct a thorough search. Members should not squander the opportunity. Hiring the wrong person as superintendent will almost guarantee the district’s demise.


1Springman(237 comments)posted 6 years ago

Need a role model?

Whereas YSU doesn't have a medical or law school.....

Need increased tax revenues? Develop the natural gas under your properties!

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2toomuchapathy(14 comments)posted 6 years ago

creativity is key to any successful school district. And I applaud the suggestion for a nationwide search. However, I do not think the right person or group of people cannot be found within Youngstown. Catale should not only develop search committees, but require that the local leaders on the committees commit to collaborating with the city schools in the future on any type of project. Community collaboration is key for successful schools.

I once worked at an amazingly successful city school out the area that required that new teacher hires give a sample lesson in front of their potential students. The students (high school) then wrote feedback on the cards on how they responded along with the school administration. It would be wonderful in the selection was open to the public and feedback could be given, and it would another way for the school board to rally collaboration.

I also think the mayors office should look into the New York City's mayoral control of the schools which is credited with the drastic changes in their educational system.

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3CompMan(149 comments)posted 6 years ago

Dr. Webb should be required to finish her tenure at the end of this school year; not January 1. If need be pay her servance to stay at home. Why would Youngstown need her to conduct a "smooth transition" from failed leadeship skills. She will only get into the way of new leadership - "we always did it this way". Youngstown (and Warren schools) need to be successful towards a positive change for this area. Webb still remains a distraction and should not have any input in the decision or transitioning of new leadership.

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4UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 6 years ago

Why not ask the state school oversite committee to make a recommendation for a new superintendent? The person has to have special skills to change the union mentality of the Y-town schools. It won't happen if they promote one of their own or one from another inner city failing school district elsewhere for higher pay. Bringing the family values for education to the students' parents need to be number one and no one locally has that ability obviously.

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5BillyBob(92 comments)posted 6 years ago

Good luck school board, we are counting on you!

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