By Denise Dick
Many in the community support city schools Superintendent Connie Hathorn’s plan to restructure schools in an effort to boost student choice, cut costs and bolster achievement — although some questions remain.
The Rev. Lewis Macklin, pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, has a daughter in the visual and performing arts program at the Chaney Campus and another daughter who will be in seventh grade next year.
The family is looking at several schools, including some city schools, to try to find the best combination for her. Academic rigor, cultural diversity, quality curriculum and administrative support are some of the characteristics important to the family.
The girl attends Youngs-town Community School this year, but that school runs only through sixth grade. The family looked last year at both Chaney and Rayen Early College Middle School as well as some private schools.
“We’ll have to revisit them because when we visited them last year, the new plan hadn’t been announced,” the Rev. Mr. Macklin said.
The plan unveiled by Hathorn this week, and included in the Youngstown Schools Academic Recovery Plan, would create a choice school for third- through eighth-graders at what is now Kirkmere Elementary School.
The other six elementary schools would become kindergarten-through-sixth-grade buildings rather than kindergarten-through-fifth.
Both P. Ross Berry and Volney Rogers middle schools would close, and Wilson Middle School would become the district’s alternative school. University Project Learning Center, the alternative schools housed at the former Mary Haddow School, would close.
Both Chaney and East High School will offer a Career-College Prep Program for seventh- and eighth-graders.
Those programs will be self-contained within the buildings with younger students separated from the high schoolers.
Choffin Career and Technical Center would remain a career and technical school for 11th- and 12th-graders but become an all-day program rather than having students spend part of the school day at either East or Chaney. Choffin students would remain eligible to participate in sports programs at East.
Mr. Macklin questions, though, some plan aspects.
“The choice schools seem to be jurisdictionally located,” he said.
Both Chaney and Kirkmere are on the city’s West Side.
“I don’t think it was their intention, but it’s almost like those are the premiere schools,” Mr. Macklin said.
He’d prefer to see more central locations.
“What’s affirming is that we have to do something to utilize our resources more effectively,” Mr. Macklin said.
Several community members including Angela McCoy, a parent of a Chaney student; Herb Washington, owner of H.L.W. Fast Track; Janice Strasfeld, director of the Youngstown Foundation; and Henry McNeil, president of the Youngstown Baptist Pastors Council, spoke in favor of Hathorn’s plan at the Youngstown Schools Academic Distress Commission meeting where it was presented.
McCoy said she supports student choice.
“It puts the focus on the students,” she said.
Sylvia Jennings, president of the parent-teacher organization at Harding Elementary School, also backs the restructuring.
“His plan is very good,” she said. “I haven’t heard or seen anything better,” she said. “With our economy the way it is and with the area being in the situation it is with work and unemployment and the inner city down with some crime and other issues, money needs to be allocated to get things done in the school system.”