By Denise Dick
One incumbent — running as a write-in candidate — and four challengers are vying for three seats on the city school board.
Lock P. Beachum Sr., 79, a 16-year school board member and a retired school principal, initially hadn’t planned to seek re-election. He filed as a write-in because he said he’s concerned about the quality of the candidates who filed.
Jackie Adair, 68, who is self- employed preparing young adults for the GED; Ronald Shadd, 37, a consultant and community advocate; Hattie Wilkins, 63, a grass-roots activist; and Jerome Williams, 51, a Mahoning County deputy sheriff, are the challengers.
Members Rachel Hanni and Andrea Mahone, both of whom are completing their first terms on the school board, didn’t seek re-election.
Adair said there was little emphasis on academics until the Youngstown City Schools Academic Distress Commission was put in place in 2010. “We’re failing our young people and we have been for several years,” she said.
Adair said there’s a lack of direction from people at the top in the school district.
Shadd, whose mother, Brenda Kimble, sits on the school board, said he sees an educational gap among young people in the city.
If elected, he would work to establish programs to help children and families to be successful.
Wilkins said that if she were elected, she would work to create a school environment in which children want to go to school and learn.
“Schools should be a place where teachers, parents and children all come together and love to learn and everybody is on one accord,” she said.
Williams said the district suffers from three problems — low test scores, empty seats and fiscal issues — and they’re all tied together. If test scores rise, more students will be drawn to the district, bringing more dollars with them.
He believes the board and Superintendent Connie Hathorn must work together for the district to be successful.
“The only way we can save the school system is by getting everybody working together,” he said. “The current superintendent inherited a lot of issues, and he’s trying a lot of different things.”
It took many years for the district to get to the point where it is, so it stands to reason that it will take more than a few years to get it right, Williams said.
Beachum believes that the school board has given Hathorn the personnel and the programs he needs. If student test scores don’t improve by next year, he thinks the board may need to take a different direction.
Adair said she initially supported Hathorn when he first came to the district in late 2010 and when he took over as superintendent in January 2011, but she doesn’t anymore.
“In three years, I think there should have been marked improvement,” she said.
On the most recent state report card, the first to implement a letter-grade system, the district earned five F’s, two D’s and two C’s. Before the letter-grade system, the district was in academic watch, the second-lowest designation, for two years, after languishing for a few years in academic emergency, the lowest ranking.
Adair said that despite training for principals, test scores haven’t improved significantly and she questions why they’re still working. “At what point do we stop placing the focus on adults and at what point do we start placing the focus on the students?” she said.
Wilkins said Hathorn should be working to meet the school board halfway and she doesn’t believe that’s happening. She’s not sure he has the capability to improve student test scores.
“If he’s capable of it, in my opinion he’s not doing it yet,” Wilkins said.
One of the areas where Shadd would focus his efforts if elected is increasing family involvement in the schools.
“Children with parents that are involved in their education perform better,” he said. “I will continue to work to identify and participate with programming that supports the family units as a whole.”