Review of Youngstown school district starts next week

By Denise Dick


A team of six reviewers from the Ohio Department of Education will spend next week reviewing the city school district to identify strengths and challenges, and make recommendations.

The review will address six areas: leadership and governance; curriculum and instruction; assessment and use of data; human resources and professional development; student support; and fiscal management.

“We want to get a picture of the Youngstown City Schools — what is the current status,” John Richard, ODE associate superintendent, said at a school board meeting Tuesday. “We’ll have recommendations for the distress commission but also for the local board of education.”

The city school district is one of two districts in the state where an academic distress commission is in place, charged with overseeing the academic recovery of a district. The other is Lorain.

Within the last two months, ODE has appointed a director of the Office of Distress Commissions and Educational Reform, a new position, who will work with districts in distress as well as those on the cusp.

Richard said one of the gaps the department discovered was that at the creation of the commissions, there wasn’t a comprehensive review of the districts.

The review will be done annually. Results of the first review are expected this summer with a follow-up in November or December.

All of the reviewers will be people who have worked at a district or school level, Richard said.

Reviewers will look at district documents, visit and observe classrooms, talk with personnel and examine student data.

The reason to visit classrooms, though, isn’t to evaluate teachers, Richard said. It’s to see instruction practices and curriculum implementation.

“One of the things we’d like to do is to build a bit more of a bridge between this board and the commission” because the board will resume full control of the district when the commission achieves its goal, he said.

Recommendations made in the report, however, are not binding, Richard said.

In other business, the board approved two agreements with the Mahoning County Educational Service Center — one to provide a guidance counselor at Cardinal Mooney High School and the other to provide services for two coordinators at Youngstown Early College — but not without voicing reservations.

Jacqueline Adair, board member, asked if the district is required to contract with MCESC for services. She referred to the center’s plans for a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics high school opening in the county in 2015. The center is partnering with Austintown, Canfield, Poland and Struthers schools in the endeavor.

Board members are concerned the new school will compete with the city district for students.

“I have concerns that they are working with the enemy, so to speak,” Adair said.

Superintendent Connie Hathorn said the district is required to contract with an educational service center, but it doesn’t have to be the one in Mahoning County. If that affiliation is severed, however, the district must notify the center by December of the year before.

Board members also approved the retirements of three administrators. William Baun, principal of Paul C. Bunn Elementary School, will retire effective May 31, and Wanda Clark, principal of Williamson Elementary School, and Donna Smaldino, chief of food service, both will retire effective July 1.

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