By approving a retire/rehire plan for Youngstown schools Superintendent Connie Hathorn, the board of education has placed the future of the academically and financially challenged urban district in his hands. We have no doubt that Hathorn, who has been superintendent since January 2011, will be up to the task.
An objective analysis of the system will show that in the past 21/2 years, the system has gone from being in the state’s academic cellar and in fiscal emergency, to showing a slight improvement academically and having the state declare its finances on the mend.
The board’s 5-2 vote on the retire/rehire contract will give Hathorn an annual salary of $119,240 — 10 percent less than what he was making — and he will be able to draw on his retirement.
He will serve as superintendent for four more years, which undoubtedly will please the chairwoman of the state-appointed Academic Distress Commission, Adrienne O’Neill.
In an email to members of the commission, O’Neill warned that if the school board did not extend Hathorn’s contract, the distress commission would flex its statutory muscle and take over the troubled district.
This newspaper also strongly supported the superintendent’s continued service with the district, saying in an editorial, “Unless members of the Youngstown school board have an individual in mind who has superior credentials and experience and is as committed to the city’s students as Hathorn, we believe they should extend his contract. He could well be the reason the state of Ohio does not swoop in and take over the district.
Hathorn, who served in various capacities in the Akron system, has the support of the state-created academic oversight commission and also has attracted the attention — in a positive way — of officials of the state education department.
Since he has come on board, major changes have been implemented to ensure that teaching is taking place in the classrooms and that academically superior students have the opportunities and the tools to pursue their interests.
We aren’t setting unrealistic goals for the urban school district, given the economic and social challenges confronting many of the students, but we would be encouraged if the next state report card due out in August shows an improvement over the current academic watch designation.
Continuous improvement would certainly prove that Hathorn and the state academic commission have developed the right formula for turning the district around.
The system has been failing for too long.
With his new contract, Dr. Hathorn has been given the freedom to do whatever is necessary to put the district on the right track.
The five of the seven board members who voted to keep him as superintendent are to be commended.
The Youngstown City School District is at a crossroads. The state, led by Gov. John Kasich, has made it clear that continued failure is not an option and that a major restructuring of the system is a possibility.
Hathorn is well aware of this reality and has thus far been able to keep officials of the Ohio Department of Education at bay.
But for how long remains the great unknown.