By Denise Dick
A few months after the state told the Youngstown Schools Academic Distress Commission it needed to move faster to bolster student achievement, the state superintendent says the improvement plan needs an overhaul.
“You have the basis of a good plan, but there’s work yet to be done,” Stan Heffner, state superintendent of public instruction, said at a commission meeting Tuesday.
It’s time to transform the Youngstown schools, he said.
This may include different programs, different school days, magnet schools, community schools or innovation schools or some combination. Innovation schools are those where school personnel develop a plan for the building that must be approved by both the local and state school board.
Parents and students should have choices, he said.
“Youngstown could be a mosaic district if it wants to be,” Heffner said.
It was the first meeting since Heffner replaced three original commission members with his own appointees. He expects they’ll have a revised plan by February.
Richard Ross, a retired superintendent from Reynoldsburg schools, near Columbus, replaces Debra Mettee as chairman. Mettee, superintendent of Springfield schools, had resigned from the city schools commission.
Adrienne O’Neill, president of Stark Education Partners, and Michael Garvey of M7 Technologies of Youngstown, replace James Hall, retired South Range superintendent, and Sherri Lovelace-Cameron, a Youngstown State University chemistry professor.
Heffner said Tuesday that he wanted to “give those folks a rest.” Commission members aren’t paid.
He said the plan that was adopted by the previous commission earlier this month looked at what was being done in the city schools and how to improve it.
“I’m not sure it makes a better Youngstown,” the state superintendent said.
The plan, which had been developed with an Ohio Department of Education consultant, combined seven plans that had been in place in the district into one. That consolidation was done at Heffner’s direction when he attended a commission meeting in September.
At that same meeting, he said that the district needed to move faster to improve academic performance. The city schools moved one step from academic emergency, the lowest designation, one step up to academic watch, on the last report card.
But Heffner said last September that was nothing to celebrate as Youngstown students are still in academic distress.
The plan adopted by the commission earlier this month included eight components. Literacy is one of those components and Heffner said the district should move “full-steam ahead” with that.
The others need more work. The district needs to raise its expectations for students, he said.
Heffner said development of a new plan will be on a fast track by the commission.
The effort to improve the city schools has to include the school board members who are the elected representatives of the community, he said.
Both Knowledge Works and the Raymond John Wean Foundation have offered to help the district, particularly with community outreach efforts. The district must have involvement from the community to be successful.
Heffner said that help may come in the form of equipment or programs. The amount will be determined by those organizations.