Y’town schools CEO sets graduation bar very high
When we read that Youngstown schools Chief Executive Officer Krish Mohip was aiming for 100 percent graduation of the 2018 senior class, our immediate reaction was, “We’ve heard that song before.”
Indeed, 16 years have passed since the 100 percent graduation rate was supposed to have occurred in the Youngstown City School District, but rather than academic success, the system has experienced a major meltdown.
It was placed in academic emergency by the state in 2010, and is now under academic watch due to an improvement in attendance.
But is it fair to compare the pontifications of Youngstown community leaders who said that 100 percent graduation would be achieved by the year 2000 to the opinion of a veteran educator whose experience is grounded in the Chicago city school system? Time will tell.
Mohip began work as the Youngstown schools’ first chief executive officer on June 29, and since then has moved quickly to exert the authority granted to him under state law that established the Youngstown Plan.
The plan is designed to prevent academically failing school districts from total collapse. It calls for the creation of a special academic distress commission to serve as the governing body of the district.
One of the commission’s most important responsibilities is the appointment of the chief executive officer who by law has full managerial, operational and instructional authority.
As a result, the elected school board is stripped of its powers and merely serves in an advisory capacity.
Members of the Youngstown school board are fighting back, but they have little chance of succeeding.
Rather than complain about Mohip’s lack of transparency and his refusal to kowtow to the board, members would do well to focus on what’s important: educating Youngstown’s children.
Mohip’s goal of 100 percent graduation of the 2018 senior class – despite new academic requirements imposed by the state Department of Education – should be a clarion call for the community.
“Why wouldn’t you aim for that?” Mohip asked, in an interview with The Vindicator. “How do I look at myself and say, ‘I’m OK with 90 percent graduation?’ How am I OK with saying ‘It’s OK if 10 percent of our kids don’t graduate?’”
While we agree with the chief executive officer that all children can learn and that setting high expectations is necessary, we wonder if he’s being Pollyannaish.
Mohip must know that the school system’s failure isn’t just the result of a dysfunctional school board or an incompetent superintendent.
In fact, the Youngstown district had one of the best superintendents in its history in Dr. Connie Hathorn. But, Hathorn resigned after five years on the job when it became clear to him that there were forces in the community determined to see him fail.
One of Hathorn’s deepest regrets was his inability to change the attitude of many parents and guardians toward their children’s education.
He often bemoaned the fact that parent-teacher conferences were sparsely attended and that many children returned to empty homes at the end of the school day.
Mohip understands that an urban school district like Youngstown faces challenges that go beyond what occurs in the classroom.
The academic recovery plan he developed within the first 90 days of his tenure – the academic distress commission recently approved it – takes a holistic approach to education.
Mohip is committed to ensuring that students receive the highest quality instruction in school and have access to after-school programs designed to meet their personal needs.
To be sure, the chief executive officer of the district has set the bar very high with his goal of 100 percent graduation for the 2018 senior class. He undoubtedly is aware that failure to meet the goal will be viewed as his personal failure and will trigger calls for his termination.