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Youngstown schools restructuring goal: more options, savings



Published: Thu, March 31, 2011 @ 12:10 a.m.

photo

The Vindicator (Youngstown)

Connie Hathorn, superintendent of Youngstown city schools, presents his plan to a large crowd at the board of education offices Wednesday.

THE PLAN

Youngstown city schools

are looking to restructure

the district to better serve

students while trimming costs.

The district also hopes to better meet the diverse needs of the students.

The plan is built on finding dedicated teachers, parents and students and best educating them in appropriately sized classes, and by having the students attend schools with curricula suited toward their career goals.

All existing elementary buildings will stay open.

Building and class sizes will be

adjusted to serve academic and social needs of children.

MLK Elementary will be rezoned to reduce class sizes, with some students being sent to Harding and Williamson.

Volney and Wilson will house all sixth- and seventh-grade students.

Provide more focus on academic, social and behavioral expectations.

Double periods of math and

language arts.

Individual evaluation on where students need extra help or enrichment.

P. Ross Berry will house all eighth- and ninth-grade students.

Focus on academic rigor, social-

emotional and behavioral expectations.

Double periods of math and language arts.

Staff trained on development needs of students.

Merge alternative programs to Mary Haddow building.

Chaney will house Rayen Early College; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); and visual and performing arts (VPA) students.

East will offer new electives: business, education and law-related coursework.

Chaney loses sports, gains emphasis on sciences, arts

By Denise Dick

denise_dick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Parents and business leaders expressed support for a plan to restructure the city schools beginning this fall.

The plan will convert Chaney High School to a science, technology, engineering and math school, as well as a visual and performing arts school.

Students at East, meanwhile, will take a survey to determine their interests, allowing them to choose a career path. Though they will still take the core curriculum classes, the survey results will enable students to align their elective courses with a business, education or law career path. Art, music, advanced placement and College in High School will still be offered at East.

“East will not be a dumping ground,” said Superintendent Connie Hathorn. “We’ll still have strong academics over there.”

The change will offer more choices for students and better serve their needs, he said.

“We’re trying to retain students and bring students back,” Hathorn said.

The district is rated in academic emergency by the state, the lowest rating — and the only district in the state so designated.

“We can’t continue to do what we’re doing,” Hathorn said.

East will house 10th through 12th grades, and all sports teams and the marching band will be there. Students at Chaney and YEC will still be able to participate in those extracurriculars.

Chaney will house students in sixth through 12th grades in the STEM or visual-performing arts programs. The school day will be extended.

Hathorn estimated that the plan will save about $2 million annually. It also will mean fewer teachers in the district.

Lock P. Beachum Sr., school board president, said the board fully supports the plan.

“The goal of the plan is for the success of our students,” he said. “That should be the No. 1 concern on everyone’s list.”

Choffin Career and Technical Center and Youngstown Early College won’t change.

Mike Garvey of M7 Technologies, a member of the newly formed business advisory committee for the schools, said one of that company’s partners will provide $900,000 of free software for the STEM school at Chaney.

“It will enable students to work with the cutting-edge software that everyone in the world will be using to build rocket ships and to build tanks,” Garvey said.

The Rev. Lewis Macklin, pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, who has children in the schools, likes the plan.

“We have to do something different for the educational excellence of our children,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for us. We have the opportunity to give it a try to see it move our best foot forward. It’s going to take community buy-in and support, and that will have to start with the adults and community leaders before it starts with the children.”

The Rev. Mr. Macklin said how children view the changes will be a reflection of how adults feel about it.

“If they see any division among us, it’s an opportunity for the children not to support it. We need to stick together with one collective voice” supporting the plan, he said.

“Everyone — faculty, parents, neighbors — every adult has to be willing to invest in the future of the school district,” Mr. Macklin said.

He has two children who graduated from Chaney and a daughter at P. Ross Berry. Another daughter attends Youngstown Community School but will attend the city schools when she enters seventh grade, he said.

Middle schools

The district’s three middle schools also will see restructuring.

P. Ross Berry will become an eighth- and ninth-grade academy, and Wilson and Volney Rogers each will house a sixth- and seventh-grade academy.

There will be double periods of math and language arts at all of the middle schools.

Hathorn said many parents who send their children to district elementary schools remove them when they’re ready to enter middle school because of the perception that those schools are out of control.

He hopes that by moving eighth-graders to a different building, parents will keep their children in the middle schools.

Hathorn said he will recommend to the Academic Distress Commission that teachers at the eighth- and ninth-grade academy have to apply, be interviewed and selected for those jobs. The state-appointed commission has the authority to bypass seniority in making assignments.

Those teachers selected will have to report to work earlier in the fall than other schools and receive specialized professional development.

Students are sometimes held back in ninth grade because they’re not ready for high school. Hathorn’s plan aims to remedy that.

“Hopefully, this will reduce the dropout rate and increase the graduation rate because we’re getting those kids ready for high school,” he said.

Rayen Early College Middle School, which houses sixth- through eighth-graders on the fourth floor of Choffin, will move into the Chaney building.

Student eligibility to attend Chaney will be based on application, interviews or auditions, and those chosen will have an extended school day.

Grade schools

The grade alignment of the elementary schools will stay the same, but there will be rezoning at three of those buildings to create a more equitable distribution of students.

Martin Luther King Elementary now has 490 students and was built with a 350-student capacity. That means fourth- and fifth-graders who attend MLK are housed at P. Ross Berry Middle School.

By rezoning, 65 of those students will go to Harding Elementary and 65 to Williamson Elementary.

The district’s three alternative school programs — University Project Learning Center, Twilight and Redirections — will be combined into one program and housed at the former Mary Haddow School building. It’s a smaller building than the former Hayes Middle School building where UPLC is now; the closed building on Oak Street Extension will be reopened.

That will trim utility costs, Hathorn said.

Will Bagnola, president of the Youngstown Education Association, the union representing district teachers, said YEA doesn’t have a reaction since the plan was just announced.

He said that he personally is “trusting Dr. Hathorn with his experience and his knowledge of the situation to do what he thinks is in the best interest of the district.”

Tony Paglia, vice president of government affairs at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, said the district needs something that will help it make progress.

“Dr. Hathorn said he wants to make change and wants to lead the district forward in a positive manner,” said Paglia, who also is chairman of the P16 Council. The council focuses on preparing students at each stage of education for the next stage.

“We are hopeful that these changes will make a difference,” Paglia said. “The P16 Council stands ready to help Dr. Hathorn in any way we can to improve the district and to move it forward.”


Comments

1palmer16121(111 comments)posted 3 years ago

I heard about this on the news, and I believe it is a good idea. This was something that was sorely needed for the sake of the children. If this is successful, then it could spread to other distrcts not only in Youngstown, but also the larger districts in the Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia region. My sincerest hope, is that Dr. Hathorn gets support, and is successful.

Suggest removal:

2walter_sobchak(1750 comments)posted 3 years ago

"The plan is built on finding dedicated teachers, parents and students and best educating them in appropriately sized classes, and by having the students attend schools with curricula suited toward their career goals"

You have to wonder what some of the students have as career goals. This needs to be developed at a young age. In any case, I congratulate Dr. Hathorn for thinking outside the box and coming up with something radically new. This is the kind of major overhaul it is going to take! Bravo!

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3YtownSports(203 comments)posted 3 years ago

Wow! This is an ambitious plan. A lot to implement by this fall. It is, however, the "out of the box" kind of thinking that can change the focus of students and teachers alike which is one way to improve their performance. Maybe Youngstown can be a leader for once!

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4Photoman(950 comments)posted 3 years ago

At first glance, this plan appears to be workable and desirable. The one area which I am concerned about is parental involvement. Strong parental involvement will be needed to keep students focused and this involvement has been sorely lacking in the past. May the district have much success with this plan!!

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5simpleton(33 comments)posted 3 years ago

Mr. Hathorn, "You Rock", I saw this on the news last night, I 100% applaud your ideas and efforts. I will keep my fingers crossed for a positive outcome. Why can't all superintendents be like you?

You are the first superintendent to actually acknowledge the needs of children and their future.

Best of luck to you and the children of the Youngstown School District!

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6Silence_Dogood(1215 comments)posted 3 years ago

" or law career path"
10% of the Student Body is allready on this path, its called jail.

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7mrblue(923 comments)posted 3 years ago

I hope this works for your district. At least this superintendant is trying to do something for the betterment of the school system, unlike previous leaders.

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8Voice_of_Reason(3 comments)posted 3 years ago

There always has to be one smart comment (i.e. the one Silence_Dogood just made)...This superintendent has my full support...As a person that is involved with the middle school kids on a daily basis, I feel this restructuring process will result in vast improvements...However, like it was previously stated, we hope to get all the parents on board too, and I'm confident we will!

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9Shamrock29(19 comments)posted 3 years ago

This is nothing more than an attempt to seperate the students and keep them on their perspective "sides of town". How unfortunate that Youngstown City Schools, and their long running traditions, have been forced into ruins by students that dont even want to be there! They tried a police presence, they tried to bring in the preachers, and now there is nothing to do but shut it down...slowly of course by calling it a "Science Academy" Just like Eagle Heights Academy...which was another colossal failure. The schools need to be ruled with an iron fist wearing a velvet glove. Take the ones that dont want to be there, have no chance of graduating anyway, and are a source of these constant fights and disruptions, and get them into some type of vocation like making license plates. That's probably what they'll end up doing anyway.

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10palmer16121(111 comments)posted 3 years ago

I am not really shocked by the negativity here. It is quite dangerous to lump the good kids that WANT to learn with the known thugs who need to be extricated from YCS. Yes, this kind of negativity is what keeps communties like Youngstown, Ohio (and Farrell, Pennsylvania for that matter) in a bad spotlight. It is going to be hard trying to get rid fo the problem children. However, we still need to give them a chance none the less. Some of them are a problem because they get bored easily. Others know excatly what they are doing by being disruptive.

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11dreamcatcher52(140 comments)posted 3 years ago

This is a great plan. Students DO need to be thinking of career plans in 8th and 9th grade. It doesn't mean they can't or won't change at some point. But it makes school relevant. And it is a drastic change that needed to be done. The same old thing wasn't working. If the parents, teachers and community are excited and supportive of this plan, the kids will buy into it too. I wish they had had something like this in the suburban school my kids attended.

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12Silence_Dogood(1215 comments)posted 3 years ago

Voice of Reason
As I type this the County Jail has two new inmates, they were taken right from the halls of Chaney High School.(literally) Another DOZEN of these fine students have also been charged for of all things RIOTING.These things go on DAILY at this School do you think we dont know about it , or are we to just ignore it.Open your eyes.

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13Silence_Dogood(1215 comments)posted 3 years ago

"we hope to get all the parents on board too, and I'm confident we will!"

Tell me this, what percent of the Parents attend the Parent/Teacher conference at the Middle School that you are associated with.

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