By Denise Dick
Ohio’s state superintendent isn’t happy with the progress of Youngstown City Schools, and he is asking the community to step forward and help.
“I’m disappointed with the lack of progress,” Richard Ross, state superintendent of public instruction, said in a telephone interview Thursday with The Vindicator. “Whether it be the school board, the administration or staff or the academic distress commission, the bottom line is they haven’t gotten done what needs to get done.”
The Youngstown School District Academic Distress Commission was appointed four years ago after the city school district failed to meet adequate yearly progress for four consecutive years on the state report card.
It was the first district in the state to operate under an ADC. Lorain schools now also has one.
Ross briefly served as chairman of the Youngstown ADC before leaving to work as Gov. John Kasich’s director of 21st Century Education. Kasich later appointed Ross state superintendent after the resignation of Stan Heffner.
“The community at large, the faith-based community, the business community has to say, ‘Enough. We have to make dramatic change, whether that’s open enrollment or community schools, we have to make dramatic improvement,’” he said. “My call to action to the broad community is we need your help. We’re asking them to step forward.”
He said he has no date in mind.
Connie Hathorn, Youngs-town schools superintendent, said he would support such an effort.
“The schools belong to the community,” he said. “As long as what they want is what’s best for the kids, I would support it.”
Ross called it a “philosophical predisposition” he has that formulas for lasting change are more effective when they come from a community that’s bonded together than from a prescription written by another entity.
“I’m not pleased with the progress in Youngstown,” he said.
The closest model in the state for the type of action he’s talking about is the Cleveland Plan, Ross said.
Although he’s said he’s not looking for a copy of that city’s plan, community groups in that city got together because they weren’t happy with what was happening with the schools and made changes.
That city’s plan, which required state legislation, involves a system of district and charter schools under the leadership of a chief executive officer and nine school board members who are appointed by the Cleveland mayor. At least four of those members must have expertise in education, finance or business.
The board members hire the CEO.
“The bottom line is this has to be for the boys and girls,” Ross said. “There’s got to be a change and improvement for the opportunities for these young people. If they’re limited by what their opportunities are in education, then shame on us.”