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Austintown school board looks to revise open enrollment policy

Thursday, December 1, 2016

No action taken on Austintown super’s contract renewal

By Jordyn Grzelewski


The school board will “more than likely” move to reduce the number of open enrollment students it accepts, board President Kathy Mock told The Vindicator.

Her comments followed a board meeting Wednesday night at which open enrollment was discussed during public comment.

“We do hear the comments and the concerns community members have made over the last few weeks,” Mock told those in attendance. “We’re reviewing policies.”

“We’re doing our due diligence and we are going to be getting back to the community to make things more transparent,” Mock said. She expects the board will have something to present in January.

The district currently has 773 open enrollment students, Mock said. Total district enrollment is about 5,000 students.

“We’re looking at not just the numbers, but the financial impact, because with monies that come in from open enrollment we’re allowed to offer programming and resources for our students in the district,” she explained.

A recent performance audit of the district by the state auditor’s office found that the district lost money last year due to open enrollment, and could save more than $766,000 by reducing open-enrollment admission to 125 students and realigning staff.

Erica Avery of Youngstown, a mother of four open enrollment students, spoke in defense of the policy, saying that many community members seem to form opinions about it without accurate information.

“If you’re going to have a disagreement, have a factual disagreement,” she said.

She expressed gratitude for a presentation Wednesday by representatives of the Mahoning County Educational Service Center on the district’s 2016 state report card results.

That presentation, delivered by ESC Superintendent Ron Iarussi and ESC Director of Teaching and Learning Kim Davis, sought to allay concerns community members might have about the district’s results, some of which were poor.

The district received D grades for the report card’s achievement and prepared for success components; F’s for gap closing and K-3 literacy; and B’s for progress and graduation rate.

Many school districts throughout the state received lower marks on the 2016 report card. The report cards reflected the results of a new test and were reported differently than in previous years.

“Good teaching typically starts with the assessment first,” said Davis. “When the assessment keeps changing, it totally throws people for a loop. ... That’s happened three times in the last three years.”

She pointed to data indicating that Austintown’s results were on par with other districts throughout the state, and also to some contradictions in the results.

“How can you get an F in passing the test, but B in making progress? Those don’t seem to add up. We’ve been asking questions of the [state department of education],” she said.

The ESC has been working to making sense of the local results, Davis said.

“There doesn’t seem to be any trend we can pick up on. And that’s what we try to do at the county office,” she said. “Why is it in flux like that? ... The thing that’s changed that’s common to all the districts in the state is the test.”

“There’s no doubt your children are learning every day,” she said. “Don’t overreact.”

The board did not take action on a renewal of Superintendent Vince Colaluca’s contract, which some community members have vocally opposed at recent meetings. Mock said she expects a vote on that in the next month or two.