The commission chairwoman attributed her resignation to health issues

Commission also OKs pay increases for high school principals

By Denise Dick


The chairwoman of the Youngstown City Schools Academic Distress Commission has announced her resignation.

Also, the commission has implemented a high-school principal salary scale higher than what the city school board rejected.

Adrienne O’Neill, chairwoman since January 2012, plans to retire from her position with Stark Education Partners in September. Because of recent health issues, she hasn’t been able to make up time she’s spent working on commission business at her job.

“It’s my 50th year full time in education,” she said.

Her resignation from the Academic Distress Commission is effective June 30 or whenever Richard Ross, state superintendent of public instruction, appoints a replacement. O’Neill actually became chairwoman when Ross left the city schools commission to become director of Gov. John Kasich’s Office of 21st Century Education.

News of O’Neill’s departure wasn’t entirely unwelcome to some school board members.

“She’s not in the mood to collaborate with the elected people who would be intimately involved with the decision making,” said Jacqueline Adair, a school board member.

O’Neill gives “orders as opposed to collaborating with us,” she said.

At the same meeting this week when O’Neill announced she was stepping down, the commission implemented pay increases for high-school principals.

At a school-board meeting Tuesday, Superintendent Connie Hathorn recommended an increase of $2,000 per salary step for principals as a way to attract and retain quality candidates for the jobs. He said he was directed to increase the pay scale by the commission.

School board members rejected that proposed scale, which ranged from $81,333 to $95,436 annually based on years service and educational attainment, saying the district can’t afford it.

The pay scale implemented by the commission is even higher, ranging from $95,000 to $105,000 annually.

O’Neill said the range was based on the national trend, which calls for principal pay to be 1.5 percent higher than the highest teacher. In Youngstown, a top-scale teacher earns about $69,000 per year.

The increase is to be competitive in attracting quality principals.

“The place where the performance has been the weakest has been at the high-school level,” O’Neill said. “The graduation rate is among the lowest in the state.”

The school board has called a special meeting for Monday.

“We’re going to talk about what happened and hopefully be in contact with our state representative to see what, if anything, can be done about this heavy handedness,” Adair said. “This is the second time the commission has inserted themselves into our financial situation. We’re barely keeping our heads above water.”

The academic commission was appointed to guide the district out of academic turmoil but by law, it also can assume responsibility for some financial decisions including establishing a budget and approving expenditures and appropriations.

Adair believes the new high school principal salaries are way too high.

“That’s four and five times the median income of this city,” she said. “No, no! We’re looking at being accountable to the taxpayers of this city. Dr. Hathorn is already talking about a renewal of the levy. When are we ever going to be out from under this cloud? All board members have to live in this city. People are constantly in my ear about their tax burden.”

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