The academically troubled Youngstown City School District is not expected to make notable gains in its state proficiency-test report card due out today.
Indeed, the urban district’s continued academic failure will serve to strengthen the argument put forth by Chief Executive Officer Krish Mohip and others that teachers must spend more time in the classroom teaching.
It’s no secret many children attending Youngstown schools do not have the support systems at home to facilitate learning.
Thus, schools remain the last hope for a brighter future for the city’s young people.
Youngstown’s difficulties – the system was placed in state-mandated academic emergency in 2010 and is now in academic watch – prompted the enactment of a new state law.
House Bill 70, as it is called, restructured the governance of persistently failing districts.
Key provisions call for the appointment of a special academic distress commission and the hiring of a chief executive officer. Under the law, the CEO has full authority over the operation of the district.
Mohip, a veteran educator from Chicago, was hired by the Youngstown City School District Academic Distress Commission and has been on the job for one year and three months.
Although he has implemented sweeping changes affecting students, teachers and administrators, he is not responsible for today’s report card.
However, the first CEO of a public school district in Ohio recognizes that he will be singularly responsible for the outcome of the 2017-18 state proficiency-test scores. If the report card still has more Fs than any other grades, his detractors will declare he has failed and will push for his termination.
Mohip is not fazed by his critics, but is well aware continued failure of the system is not an option.
Clock is ticking
Gov. John R. Kasich, who has long voiced concern about Youngstown’s children being short-changed educationally, has made it clear the clock is ticking on the academic turnaround of the district.
Mohip publicly laid out his priorities for the new school year in a recent column on this page. The emphasis, he wrote, will be on teaching and learning.
It is ironic, therefore, that just days after the start of the school year, the teachers union filed a grievance against the CEO for requiring teachers to spend a little more time with students in the classroom teaching.
The grievance filed by Larry Ellis, president of the Youngstown Education Association, states: “The administration unilaterally increased student contact time outside of the agreement.”
How much time? Between 30 and 35 minutes.
We would hope that Ellis’ objection has to do with the unilateral nature of the teaching assignments and not the substance of Mohip’s action.
How could anyone truly concerned about the long-suffering children of Youngstown object to teachers spending more time in classrooms with them?
Mohip put it succinctly when he said, in response to the grievance, “ We’re in academic distress. We’re one of only two districts in the entire state to be under this form of governance, and we’re going to do whatever we need to do to make sure our children are successful.”
While we applaud the CEO for his commitment to the students, we wonder why he did not formally seek the increase in teaching time.
He could have sent a letter to the union requesting teachers spend a little more time each day with the students. The letter would have generated a lot of press coverage, especially if Ellis had rejected the request.
Indeed, it should be noted that under the current contract, teachers are required to put in 71/2 hours (450 minutes) at school, of which 300 minutes are dedicated to “student contact time in teaching assignments.”
With the additional 30 minutes that Mohip included in the new teaching schedules, the Youngstown system would be one of the highest in the region for “student contact” time.
But, the city district has the distinction of being the only one in the Mahoning Valley under state mandate.
Seven years is a long time to languish in the academic cellar.