Youngstown schools Superinten- dent Connie Hathorn is seeking a renewal of his contract that expires in July 2014. The chairwoman of the state-appointed Academic Distress Commission is of the opinion that Hathorn has earned job security. However, members of the Youngstown school board are dragging their feet.
If Hathorn leaves because of the board’s intransigence, the state commission will flex its statutory muscle and take over the troubled urban school district.
That’s not a threat, but a promise — contained in an email from Chairwoman Adrienne O’Neill to members of the commission.
“The board of education has not acted on Connie’s evaluation or contract,” O’Neill wrote. “Fortunately, as the following editorial (Vindicator, Feb. 26) indicates, he has support in lots of quarters. I have also said that if the board does not act to keep Connie in place, I will ask you [commission members] to act to appoint an academic monitor. Then the board of education will lose all control — not only will the finances be in our hands, but the academics will also.”
In other words, if the school board does not make sure Dr. Hathorn remains superintendent for as long as he wants, the school board will wind up in the dustbin of history. By week’s end, it appeared that he had the support of a majority of the seven member board. However, until a new contract is signed, sealed and delivered, the situation is uncertain, at best.
In the Feb. 26 editorial, we urged the board members to do whatever was necessary to keep Hathorn, who was one of the finalists for the superintendent’s job in the Little Rock, Ark., school district. He was not offered the position, but considering his record since becoming superintedent in January 2011, he will be approached by other urban districts.
The state academic commission has a close working relationship with Hathorn and is pleased with the way he has pursued the recovery plan approved by the state Department of Education.
Last week, Hathorn unveiled a major reorganization blueprint for the district’s schools not only to address the loss of students, but to cut costs. The district is facing a $49 million shortfall.
The blueprint is as creative as the one he developed that has brought about a transformation of the system, with the creation of two high schools as the main pillar.
Despite push back from some school board members, the superintendent has forged ahead — with the backing of the distress commission — and for that he deserves job security.