By Sean Barron
The city school district will rank higher on the state report card when the local black community – including board of education and city council members, organizations, fraternities, sororities and church leaders – works more collectively, an education campaign leader contends.
“This is not an indictment, but a challenge,” Jimma McWilson, co-director emeritus of the African Education Party, said at a meeting Friday in which he outlined key findings and recommendations he says will help the district move toward academic excellence, the highest of the five rankings on the state report card.
For the past 15 years, the district has been in academic emergency and academic watch, the bottom two ratings.
During the one-hour session at the Newport branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, McWilson reviewed findings, accomplishments and conclusions of a five-year Campaign for African American Achievement that ended early last month.
The district will improve when the black community takes greater ownership of its schools and ensures more children receive a quality and equitable education, with socialization and discipline as vital components, he noted.
Findings showed that 78 percent of black students are below grade level in science, 63.5 percent in social studies, nearly 60 percent in math and 47 percent in reading, McWilson explained.
The board of education needs to be more creative and innovative to address these challenges, he continued, adding that area churches should offer reading instruction during Sunday school, which will lead to a greater understanding of science and other subjects.
“The failure of the Youngstown City Schools to educate African-American students at an equal and equitable level has been a direct result of the failure of adult African-Americans in leadership positions to engage, educate, organize and mobilize parents, students and other community members around their roles, rights, responsibilities and power options,” the campaign said in a prepared statement.
Also, McWilson said, parents, community leaders and others must set positive examples for students.
“Children do not come here bad; they emulate the behavior of adults in the community,” he added.
Programs already are in place, however, to aid all students who fall behind, noted district Superintendent Dr. Connie Hathorn.
“I need everybody in the system to work together to move the district forward,” something that will take time, Hathorn continued, adding that neither McWilson nor anyone else from the campaign has met with him since the campaign released its findings.
Hathorn said the district is moving in the right direction and that he’s more than willing to work with anyone who seeks his help.
The campaign’s next step is to foster greater parent-pastor partnerships. A meeting about that effort is 10 a.m. Sept. 14 at Jerusalem Baptist Church, 2003 Wilson Ave.