Academic distress panel sends stern warning to school board

Members of the Youngstown Board of Education can roar all they want, but the reality is that the Youngstown City Schools Academic Distress Commission, a creature of state law, holds the whip. And, the state panel, led by Chairwoman Adrienne O’Neill, has not been reluctant to crack it in guiding the urban school district out of the academic cellar.

School board members, who are elected by voters in the district, have not taken kindly to losing their power, and they’ve pushed back. But as the latest clash clearly demonstrates, members are fighting a losing battle.

Last Tuesday, O’Neill sent an email to district Superintendent Connie Hathorn instructing him to select the candidates he wishes to hire for principal of East High School and principal of Chaney STEM and Performing Arts Schooll, and to “hire those individuals with the salary stipulated by the ADC resolution range of $95,000 to $105,000.” That salary range was a direct challenge to the authority of the school board, which has made it clear the principals’ salaries would remain at the current range of $79,300 and $93,400.

Hathorn had proposed raising the high school principal salary schedule by $2,000 a step.

But O’Neill and her colleagues on the commission are of the opinion that the district will not attract the most qualified and experienced candidates if the pay isn’t comparable to the national average for such positions.

In pushing back, school board members, led by Jackie Adair, contend the system cannot afford what the superintendent proposed, let alone the significant increase set by the academic distress commission.

Academic watch

Adair, for one, contends the state panel does not have the statutory power and authority it has been exerting since it was created in 2010 when the state declared Youngstown to be in academic emergency. The system is now under academic watch — but only because of improved student attendance. The district’s state proficiency test scores have remained stagnant. The Ohio Department of Education, which is well aware of Youngstown’s academic deficiencies, has made it clear the clock is ticking for the system to show improvement.

That’s why the distress commission has been so adamant about changing the way learning takes place in the classrooms.

O’Neill didn’t mince words in her email to Superintendent Hathorn about the principals:

“Please know that if you do not follow this directive, appointment of the principals by the ADC is another possible outcome. Further, if the board of education appoints principals not recommended by you, the ADC may remove those principals.”

That’s the sound of the whip cracking.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.