Not to put too fine a point on it, but the state-mandated Youngstown City Schools Academic Distress Commission — and not the board of education — is in charge of the troubled school district. Indeed, the commission has the statutory authority to take whatever actions it deems necessary to pull the urban system out of the state academic cellar.
In light of that reality, the public has every reason to ask why school board members already have participated in 20 official meetings this year.
The cynical answer is that the board of education is involved in a money grab. After all, a member who was at all 20 sessions pocketed $2,500.
The total tab is $15,000-plus — and there are six months left in the year.
By contrast, the school board members in the Lorain City Schools, the only other district that is overseen by a state academic distress commission, have met 10 times. Each member receives $125 a meeting — same as in Youngstown.
For further perspective, consider what is taking place in the Warren City School District, the other urban system in the Valley. Board members receive $80 a month, regardless of the number of meetings. Thus far, the board has met 14 times.
In the Boardman Local School District, one of the academic success stories in the Valley, the board meets once a month in regular session with work sessions also scheduled. Members receive $125 a meeting, but the number of meetings is capped at 12 — 13 if members attend the county board of education meeting.
Thus far, they have met seven times.
Why, then, is an entity with no discernible power and which is subservient to the state academic distress commission meeting so often? If you’re not inclined to go the cynical route — a money grab — then perhaps this answer will be more to your liking: School members are trying to show they’re relevant in the overall scheme of things.
The distress commission and its outspoken chairwoman, Adrienne O’Neill, who has announced her retirement, have made it clear that its decisions are final, regardless of the opinions of school board members.
Yes, it is a power play, but one that’s necessary given the city district’s failure over the years to show marked improvement in the state proficiency tests.
If the only thing the meetings are good for is to provide members with a venue for talking, then they should not get paid. After all, the distress commission must approve any major decisions the school board makes.
There’s no reason for the fiscally challenged system to be shelling out so much money to a board that is largely powerless.
Dr. Connie Hathorn, superintendent of the Youngstown district, who is in the unenviable position of having two bosses — the distress commission and the school board — can’t be pleased with the large number of meetings.
Hathorn’s presence, along with that of the key administrators, is required at these meetings, which are time-consuming.
The school district is under pressure from the state superintendent of education to raise its test scores, and he has approved an academic recovery plan developed by Hathorn and the commission that demands the undivided attention of the administration, the principals and the teachers.
Unless it can be shown that the many meetings of the school board have furthered the cause of academic progress, it’s time to end the waste — of time and money.