Gov. Kasich’s help is required in light of Hathorn’s departure


On the eve of his State of the State address in February, Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich called the Editorial Page editor of The Vindicator, Bertram de Souza, to reaffirm his commitment to the Youngstown City School District and reiterate his pledge to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the city’s children receive the quality education they are not now receiving because the district is under state-mandated academic watch.

The Republican governor, who has been vocal in his criticism of the failing system, won re-election last November by a landslide over Democrat Ed FitzGerald, and more significantly carried the predominantly Mahoning and Trumbull counties. That victory has given him the impetus to take a leadership role in dealing with the region’s seemingly intractable problems.

In his conversation with the Editorial Page editor, Kasich talked about the need for all segments of the community to come together for the good of the children, and identified three individuals he believes are the difference makers: Youngstown schools Superintendent Connie Hathorn; state Rep. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta Township, and Tom Humphries, chief executive officer of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber. The governor has met with all three and with others in the Mahoning Valley who have expressed an interest in wanting to reshape the Youngstown City School District.

Kasich also said that he has asked Richard Ross, state superintendent of public instruction and former chairman of the state academic distress commission that is in charge of the Youngstown district, to play an active role in the recovery effort.

We bring up that February call today because the school system is facing a crisis of leadership that will require the intervention of Gov. Kasich.

Superintendent Hathorn, who has been at the helm since January 2011 after serving as assistant superintendent for three months, is leaving. He submitted his letter of resignation last week to take effect June 30. Hathorn has been hired as superintendent of the Pine Bluff, Ark., school district, where he worked as a coach and teacher from 1979 to 1983.

In his resignation letter and subsequent interview with Vindicator Education Writer Denise Dick, Hathorn left little doubt that his departure is the result of some members of the school board and some self-styled leaders of the black community undermining his efforts to pull the system out of academic watch.

Equal partner

While the academic distress commission has marginalized the school board, it has embraced Hathorn as an equal partner and has looked to him to implement the recovery plan that was approved by the state superintendent of public instruction.

This has given rise to an us-against-them attitude on the part of Hathorn’s detractors on the board and in the community.

The governor, aware of the fractures within the district, asked Rep. O’Brien to bring together business, community and political leaders in the Valley to figure out how the district can be reorganized to ensure student success.

He has also talked to Humphries, a member of the Ohio Board of Regents and a long-time supporter of the governor’s, about the role business and industry can play.

But now, with Hathorn leaving, Kasich has no choice but to get directly involved in the selection of a new superintendent. He has been reluctant to use the authority of the governor’s office, but circumstances demand a change in his position.

The future of the city school district hangs in a balance, and the next superintendent must be someone with a proven track record of turning failed public schools around. Kasich, as the governor of Ohio, and the distress commission are in a position to find that person.

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