By Kristine Gill
More than 60 parents either vented their frustration or voiced support at the first of two informational meetings about reorganization of Youngstown City Schools.
Superintendent Connie Hathorn urged parents Monday to support the plan, saying change is necessary.
“We’ve got to do something different,” he said at Chaney High School on the city’s West Side. “Doing something wrong is better than doing nothing at all.”
But some parents wondered why they weren’t consulted in the decision-making process. June Drennen, school board member, said educated administrators made the decision and that they should be trusted.
“I appreciate your master’s degree, but you should appreciate some of the parents’ input — and I don’t care if it takes a year,” said resident Donna Zordich.
“We would meet to death before we came to a decision,” Hathorn answered.
The next informational meeting will be at 6 tonight at Wilson Middle School on the South Side.
Most of the parents’ concerns at Chaney dealt with the way the two high schools would provide different opportunities. The plan announced last week by the superintendent would convert Chaney to a science, technology, engineering and mathematics school with a performing-arts emphasis, while East High School would provide college prep or career-oriented courses and be home to the athletic teams.
Art, music, advanced placement and College in High School will still be offered at East. Chaney will house grades six to 12 and East would house grades 10 to 12. Chaney’s school day would be extended.
Hathorn estimated a $2 million annual savings with the new plan.
Many parents said they approved of the plan to put greater emphasis on various programs, but they felt they should have been consulted and still worry about their children’s safety.
Some parents worry that swapping students from rival groups at each high school would cause fights.
“We brought these kids into this world, and you’re going to take them out,” said Shaclecha Douglas, a South Side parent with six children in the district.
Douglas said her stepson is on an individualized education program, and she worries he won’t pass an interview to qualify for those programs she’s sure he would excel in.
“He can’t hold a conversation like you and me,” she said. “But he can take a motor apart and put it back together in three hours. He’s good with his hands.”
South Side resident Alysia Cotton has three students in the district and worries for their safety should they have to attend East.
“I will not send my children to East,” she said. “I’ve been looking at houses in Boardman. I’ve been looking at houses in Liberty. ... Sending rival sides of town to one school and saying it’s going to work, I’m not going to take that chance.”
Cotton said she believes in the concept of the administration but thinks more should have been taken into consideration.
“Why wasn’t it available in both schools?” she asked of the programs each school will specialize in.
Some parents didn’t think it fair to deny a student their interest in a subject area based on skill.
Others thought students were too young to be deciding on career paths, but Hathorn said students who change their mind about a choice can switch after a year.
Hathorn and board members emphasized that core classes still would be taught at each of the high schools. Students and parents can fill out applications now for each school’s programs. Auditions and interviews will take place before the school year ends.
Hathorn acknowledged the possibility that the changes could lead some to leave the district, but he said he guarantees those who stay will be educated.
“If I don’t do anything, it’s going to sink, folks,” Hathorn said of his efforts to try to restore academic excellence to the city schools.