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It’s worth making an exception to keep Hathorn at the helm

Published: Sun, April 14, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

As a general rule, we are opposed to the retire/rehire policies that have grown in popularity in the public sector as government employees strive to squeeze the maximum in benefits by retiring when they become eligible. There’s significant financial reward in being able to retire in time, and then being rehired for the same job — even at reduced pay.

We find retire/rehire almost as unpalatable as the practice of permitting public employees to accumulate unused vacation and sick time, which is cashed in at the highest hourly rate of pay.

Such sweeteners are almost exclusive to the public sector. As we have said many times before: Governments at all levels cannot continue adopting policies that enrich employees when the people paying the bills are barely holding on to their jobs.

If an employee is old enough to retire, he or she should do so. And if the position is absolutely necessary, there are many qualified and younger individuals eager to work — for lesser pay.

With all that said, we are willing to make an exception to our rule — for Superintendent Connie Hathorn of the academically and fiscally embattled Youngstown City School District. It is no secret that we, like the State Academic Distress Commission, strongly support Dr. Hathorn and believe he is the right person to guide the urban district to a better tomorrow.

The veteran educator, who came to Youngstown from Akron in October 2010 as deputy superintendent under Wendy Webb and took over as superintendent in January 2011, has announced he is retiring and would like the board of education to reappoint him as superintendent.

Hathorn’s contract does not expire until July 31, 2014, but if he waits until then, he will lose a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment in his State Teachers Retirement System pension.

The school board is to meet June 4 to discuss his employment after retirement, and will meet again June 25 to act on his request to be rehired.

We would urge members who are elected by the residents of the district to set aside whatever personal grudges they hold against Hathorn and judge him purely on his ability to lead the district out of the academic and fiscal darkness — as the state commission has done. The panel was formed after the Youngstown schools system was placed in academic emergency as a result of student performance on the state proficiency tests. The system was moved up to academic watch last year after it showed improvement in attendance, but challenges abound.

Hathorn has forged a close working relationship with the commission and recently received school board approval for a schools reorganization plan that addresses the dual problems of declining enrollment and failing schools.

Recovery blueprint

This is the second phase of his recovery blueprint; the first was the consolidation of schools and the creation of two high schools, Chaney, which concentrates on science, technology, engineering and math and vocal and performing arts; and, East, which focuses on business and other such disciplines.

By any objective standard, Dr. Hathorn’s relatively brief tenure as superintendent has been a success. He took over a system that was in a tailspin and has, through hard work, perseverance and the cooperation of teachers, administrators and some school board members, put it on the road to recovery.

The board of education would be doing the children of Youngstown a disservice by not rehiring him.


1Millerh113(217 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

Sorry, but the practice of retire/rehire is onerous and no exception shoud be made in Mr. Hathorn's case. The Vindy cannot be against the policy and for it at the same time. Fidelio

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2ytownsteelman(680 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

No. It if is a bad policy then it is a bad policy! No exceptions! My opinion of Mr. Hathorn has certainly fallen after he announced trying to make this move. A man with integrity would not attempt to do such a thing. Find someone else WITH integrity for the job.

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3nipsy(161 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

No way!!! This guy was leaving for Arkansas just about a month or so ago. The Youngstown School district is still on a road to "death", and yet you say recovery? They are closing more of the brand new buildings that Ohio tax payers provided for them in the last decade and contiunue to lose students in droves. Let him go.

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4jmagaratz(189 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

The rules permit a board of education to use "retire/rehire" and "payment for unused authorized leave." If they are bad policies then they should be struck from the legal code and not be available.

Hathorn should not be faulted for pursuing his options. This is America and individual self-interest dominates. He is pursuing opportunities to maximize his lifestyle and rightly so.

Taxpayers need to be reminded that while the taxes they pay may be a public employee's income, the money that public employee spends may be income for the taxpayer...an example of the economic cycle at work.

As far as equalizing "public" with "private" employment practices--suggest the "private sector" unionize and strike for the same options.

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5janpentz(43 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

How much does Youngstown want to spend? They hired Dr. Hathorn at 100k+, then shortly later they hired Mr. Hiscox at 100k. Mr. Hiscox does a significant amount of what previous superintendents used to do. So now they want to pay Dr. Hathorn almost 200k? Why not? Nothing wrong with that? Is there?

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6grand4dad(219 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

Vindicator wants it both ways. Where is your outrage now against public employment?? Oh wait, I see . . . it's OK to make exceptions for some people. Isn't it ironic that it's always the people at the TOP that you want an exception for? That's right, it's the NON UNIONIZED aministrators. You remember, the ones who would still be able to have exceptions made for them even if SB5 had passed. Get your priorities in order Vindy. It's either a bad policy or it's not. And by the way, where is your big "Government Watch" section of your web site??

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7Westsider(269 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

Unfortunately the Vindicator is courting hypocrisy in this case. The editorial board may be correct that Dr. Hathorn is the right person to lead the district out of academic and fiscal muck and mire, but if all retire/re-hires are wrong this one is too. There are certainly few absolutes in issues and the editorial board needs to think that through before taking an unwavering stand.

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