By Denise Dick
The city school board president acknowledges the district has realized improvements under Superintendent Connie Hathorn’s leadership, but the board wants the schools to climb out of academic watch.
“We’re still in academic watch,” Richard Atkinson said. “When I talk to parents, they say, ‘You’re still in academic watch. Why would I want to bring my child back there?’”
The majority of the school board on Monday signed an evaluation of Hathorn, rating him an overall 5 out of a possible score of 9. Last year, the same board members rated him a 7 out of a possible 9.
Atkinson said he believes the district is moving in the right direction, but he wants to see the district earn an “excellent with distinction” rating.
“I don’t think in a year from now we’ll even be having this conversation,” he said.
Board members Rachel Hanni, Lock P. Beachum Sr. and Michael Murphy didn’t sign the completed evaluation, which was dated Feb. 27. It was signed Monday by the board’s majority — Atkinson, Andrea Mahone, Marcia Haire-Ellis and Brenda Kimble.
“The superintendent has asked us to hold him accountable — and we have,” Mahone said. “Now I’m taking a stand.”
She pointed to the academic watch rating where the district has been on the last two state report cards.
“This is not personal,” Mahone said.
Hanni, Murphy and Beachum said they thought Hathorn’s score should have been higher.
But Mahone said the three board members who didn’t sign the evaluation participated in the evaluation process, and the scores they gave to Hathorn were included in the board’s final total.
“That’s like a tantrum to me,” she said of the three members’ decision not to sign.
The evaluation scored Hathorn a 5 in each of six categories: relationships with the board, community relationships, staff and personnel relationships, educational leadership, personal qualities and business and finance.
Under comments, the evaluation reads: “The Youngstown City School Board of Education believes Dr. Hathorn is working to improve the ‘Academic Watch’ rating the system has received for the past two years. Creation of the STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] and VPA [visual and performing arts] program are positive moves, however, at this time, the changes have not been in place long enough to demonstrate the improvements that are expected by parents, the board or the general community.
“We support additional restructuring and the student choice program recently introduced. These moves are designed to strengthen and promote continued improvement in the system,” the evaluation says.
It also says that board members want Hathorn to work with board members to develop an atmosphere of teamwork, create a leadership academy for current employees where possible, market positive program results to support student recruitment and retention, increase outreach with city schools stakeholders and provide periodic program accountability and evaluation reports.
Hathorn signed the document but wrote that his signature was only to indicate he’d received it.
“I do not agree with the content of this document,” the superintendent wrote. “No feedback was given or reason for the rating.”
Atkinson said reasons were given to Hathorn; they just weren’t put in writing.
“There were things that board members wanted him to do that he didn’t follow up on,” he said.
He said he couldn’t list them off the top of his head, but he said he’s asked Hathorn to promote individual successes of city school students and graduates as a way to market the district. That hasn’t been done, he said.