By Denise Dick
Some city school board members support Superintendent Connie Hathorn staying on the job, while others are either noncommittal or didn’t respond to inquiries.
Hathorn, superintendent since January 2011, is one of four finalists for superintendent of Little Rock, Ark., schools.
Because he started mid-academic year, Hathorn believed his contract expired Dec. 31, but it runs through July 31, 2014. Still, Hathorn said that doesn’t change his desire to explore his options.
Board members are meeting this week to complete an evaluation of the superintendent after which they say they’ll talk about his contract.
“I absolutely want him to stay,” said Rachel Hanni, board member. “I think he’s doing great things. I think he has great things in store for us , and I think he’s leading us in the right direction.”
The district moved from academic emergency to academic watch on the 2010-11 state report card with the improvement attributable mostly to better student attendance and writing scores. The designation didn’t change on the preliminary 2011-12 report cards though several schools made gains while others stayed the same.
Board member Lock Beachum Sr. said he is not surprised that Hathorn is looking at other jobs, but he declined to elaborate.
“Dr. Hathorn has to evaluate things in Youngstown and see if he can be effective,” Beachum said. “He has to decide if he has a working relationship with the board — if it’s effective enough that he can continue to move the district forward — and if he has a relationship with the [Academic Distress] commission that allows him to continue to move forward.”
The state-appointed commission oversees the district’s academic and financial condition.
Beachum said if he were evaluating Hathorn, it would mirror last year’s evaluation when board members rated him a 7 out of 9.
If Hathorn leaves, “it’s not going to be a good thing for the district,” Beachum said. “It’s going to create additional problems, additional concerns.”
School boards hire only two people in a school district: the treasurer and the superintendent. The treasurer’s job has been vacant since last July despite two searches for a candidate.
Board member Brenda Kimball declined to comment about Hathorn or his contract, deferring to Richard Atkinson, board president, who she said acts as board spokesman.
“I think he’s doing well,” Atkinson said. “That doesn’t mean I speak for everyone.”
Atkinson said he thinks Hathorn has a good relationship with board members.
“Anything we’ve asked him for, he’s given us,” the board president said. “He’s given us truthful answers when we wanted them.”
Board member Michael Murphy wants Hathorn to stay. I don’t want him to go,” he said. “I think he’s doing a good job.”
Board members Marcia Haire-Ellis and Andrea Mahone could not be reached.
Larry Ellis, president of the Youngstown Education Association, the union representing district teachers, said while it’s nice to have consistency in the district administration, he understands that Hathorn has to do what’s best for him, his family and career.
Jeff Glebocki, president of the Raymond John Wean Foundation, has worked closely with Hathorn on several projects.
Hathorn came into the job when the district was in both fiscal and academic emergency and has made progress while w orking with both the school board and the academic commission, he said.
“I think it would be beneficial to the district and to families and students in Youngstown for Connie to remain in the superintendent’s office, given the amount of progress and change that is under way, so that we can finish the work he has started,” Glebocki said.
With a July 31, 2014, contract expiration, by law the board must notify Hathorn by March 1, 2014, if it decided not to renew his contract.