By Denise Dick
Saying the city school district and the academic commission that oversees it have made progress, the state superintendent of public instruction has approved an updated academic recovery plan for the schools.
“The commission and YCSD have made tangible progress since the last update,” Richard Ross wrote last week in a letter to Adrienne O’Neill, chairwoman of the Youngstown Schools Academic Distress Commission. “I believe the updated plan outlines realistic and promising strategies that will help raise the achievement of all children in Youngstown.”
The commission, appointed in 2010 after the district was rated in academic emergency on the state report card and failed to meet adequate yearly progress goals, is required to update annually the plan aimed at improving the district’s academic performance.
The commission adopted the most recent update March 28 and sent it to Ross for approval.
The updated plan stresses the need for community partnerships, student choice, credit flexibility, more advanced-placement options and dual-credit opportunities, principal professional development, up-to-date Ohio standards, providing excellence for all city students and developing an accountability strategy for all high-school locations.
“I am encouraged that YCSD is embracing the use of flexible credit, blended learning, and quality school choice,” Ross wrote. “As YCSD improves, we must be sure to give parents and students quality choices so that no child is trapped in a poor performing school.”
The state superintendent also said that based on the plan update, the district has the right leadership in place in the treasurer’s office.
Earlier this month, the school board appointed James Reinhard, who had been serving as the commission’s fiscal monitor, to the treasurer’s job. The district had been without a permanent treasurer since May 2012.
“It is good to hear that the right steps are being made to get the district’s finances under control,” Ross said in the letter. “Furthermore, YCSD should continue to integrate technology in all parts of teaching, learning, and running the district.”
He said community partnerships already are changing the lives of Youngstown school students.
“One excellent example is the YSTAR program created with the help of the Youngstown Foundation,” Ross wrote.
YSTAR provides “last-dollar scholarships” for city high-school students who want to attend either Youngstown State University or Eastern Gateway Community College.
These scholarships can be used for expenses such as tuition, mandatory fees, parking and books.
“Thanks to this partnership, YCSD graduates will receive a helping hand as they pursue a college education,” Ross wrote.