In his State of the State address Monday, Gov. John Kasich unveiled an initiative called Community Connectors that is designed to get parents more involved in the education of their children and to persuade communities to do more to support their schools.
As Kasich spoke in the Performing Arts Center in Medina to more than 1,000 state legislators, state government officials and guests, we were on the edge of our seats waiting for him to announce that the first allocation from the $10 million he’s earmarking for the program would go to the academically and financially troubled Youngstown City School District.
The governor made no mention of Youngstown, or any other community in the Mahoning Valley, but that doesn’t mean local officials should give him a pass.
The Youngstown school system, which has been in the state’s academic cellar for the past several years, has been trying to bridge the gap between what takes place in the classroom and what occurs in the home, especially for inner-city children.
A state-mandated academic distress commission is overseeing the district’s recovery, but its inability to fully connect with the parents is cause for concern. The meager attendance at parent-teacher conferences is reflective of what’s going on in Youngstown.
It’s a problem that is most evident in the urban areas. Here’s what Gov. Kasich had to say during his State of the State address:
“Something I hear a lot from teachers is that parents need to be more involved in their children’s education, and communities should do more to support their schools. I agree, so let’s do it.
“We πre launching Community Conectors, an initiative to support the best ideas for bringing together schools, parents, communities, faith-based groups, businesses and students in mentoring efforts based on proven practices.”
And then the governor revealed that he will ask the state Legislature to provide $10 million from the licensing fees paid by the casinos in Ohio to support the initiative “and to show that we’re serious.”
But there’s a price to be paid: The state will allocate $3 for every dollar a local community puts in.
“All of us in Ohio see needs every day and we hunger to help, but we don’t know how,” Kasich said. “Community Connectors will give you a chance to listen to that better angel inside all of us and make a difference in somebody’s life.”
We believe that the better angels need to be working on behalf of the Youngstown school district.
The Ohio Department of Education is well aware of the financial and academic challenges and has closely monitored the system’s recovery.
State officials have served notice that Youngstown’s failure to climb out of academic watch could result in the state coming in and reforming the district. Failing schools could be closed, and charter schools managed by the state could be opened.
Thus far, the academic distress commission has succeeded in keeping the state education department at bay, but the clock is ticking.
Gov. Kasich, who has been briefed on the situation in Youngstown, can demonstrate his commitment to changing the lives of the city’s children by announcing that Community Connectors will be launched here.
The need for parental involvement — many of the children come from single-parent homes or are being raised by relatives — is great.
As for the community, there’s a faith-based organization that has a solid track record of working in the inner city.
ACTION (Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods)could be the partner the governor is seeking.