By Denise Dick
City schools Superintendent Connie Hathorn says student success will continue to drive the school district.
“... Everything we do, every program we offer, every decision we make” is based on student success, he said Tuesday during his State of the Schools address as part of the regular school- board meeting.
Hathorn was hired in October 2010 as the deputy superintendent, a position he occupied until the retirement of Wendy Webb. He moved into the superintendent’s job in January 2011.
He said that when he started, he set five objectives: student achievement, training and accountability, use of data, active community engagement and financial stability.
During his first full year, the district’s report-card designation improved from academic emergency to academic watch, Hathorn said.
The district has developed focused training for teachers and other employees and Hathorn created a teachers group from which to garner ideas and insight for improvement.
Employees are assigned based on who’s best for the job, he said.
“Seniority — those days are gone here in Youngstown,” the superintendent said. “We’re going to put the best person in the position.”
The district uses data to inform decisions about instruction. Student assessments are done frequently so teachers know if students don’t understand something — so they can tailor instruction accordingly.
Community engagement efforts include partnerships with different companies, individuals and groups such as the business advisory committee that Hathorn started.
Hathorn said he’s also focused on finances.
“I have not increased the general fund by one cent since I’ve been in this position,” he said.
By eliminating positions and consolidating programs, Hathorn said he saved the district $5.2 million.
Even so, the district’s financial outlook isn’t good. There isn’t likely to be an increase in state funding this year and the levy approved by voters in 2008 expires at year’s end.
A renewal is on the November ballot and without that, the district will see a $1.4 million deficit this school year.
This school year, the district has started a safety/bullying tip line so students may report problems. It’s website has been updated and the district is using social media to inform residents about what’s happening.
New programs this year include aquaponics and welding at Choffin Career and Technical Center and a realignment of eighth and ninth graders.
Hathorn said enrollment is up in the district’s specialty programs. The visual and performing arts and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programs at Chaney will see enrollment increases of 185 percent and 25 percent, respectively, this year. That includes 28 students from outside the district in VPA and 14 from outside the district in STEM.
Choffin, Rayen Early College Middle School and Youngstown Early College also will see influxes of students from outside the district.