Detractors will not kill the ‘Youngstown Plan’


Let us not forget why the Youngstown City School District was restructured by an act of the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

First, the urban district had hit rock bottom academically, which prompted the state to declare an emergency in 2010.

Second, members of the elected school board displayed a disturbing lack of intellectual foresight to recognize that Youngstown’s children were being sacrificed at the altar of special-interest agendas.

Finally, Republican Gov. John R. Kasich, who has had the Youngstown school system on his radar from the day he took office in January 2011, sought the advice of a group of Mahoning Valley business and community leaders.

The leaders met and came up with the building blocks of House Bill 70. The measure was approved with Republican votes only and was signed into law by Kasich.

While the law applies to all public school districts in academic distress, it is known as the “Youngstown Plan” because it was first applied to Youngstown.

The Lorain City School District is now under the umbrella of House Bill 70.

As we have noted on several occasions in this space, the law will remain on the books so long as Republicans are in power in Columbus.

There is nothing to suggest that Democrats will succeed in taking over the Ohio House and Senate, which means the detractors of the Youngstown Plan are tilting at windmills when they talk about returning to the disastrous old days of fiscal and academic mediocrity.

The Youngstown Plan went into effect in 2015, resulting in the creation of a special Academic Distress Commission. There are five seats on the commission: three filled by the state superintendent of public instruction; one by the mayor of Youngstown; and one by the president of the Youngstown school board.

For two years, the commission’s membership was as follows: Brian Benyo, Jennifer Roller and Nick Santucci, appointed by the state superintendent; Dr. Barbara Brothers, selected by former Mayor John McNally; and, Vincent Shivers, named by school board President Brenda Kimble.

Resignations

But in the last two weeks, Benyo, chairman of the commission; Roller, vice chairman; and Brothers resigned, thereby giving the detractors a reason to gloat.

But their joy will be short lived because state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria will fill the two vacancies, while Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, who was sworn in Jan. 1, will name a replacement for Brothers.

While Brown may do the politically expedient thing and seek guidance from the community, DeMaria, who is very aware of the progress that has been made in last two years, should look around the state for the best and the brightest to serve on the commission.

There’s no reason to confine his search to the city of Youngstown or the Mahoning Valley.

Local control of the school district has been an abject failure. Just ask former Youngstown schools Superintendent Dr. Connie Hathorn, who came from Akron and inherited a district in fiscal and academic collapse.

Hathorn’s predecessor, Dr. Wendy Webb, was clearly unqualified to lead the urban school system, but she was popular because she gave in to the school board and the teachers union.

By contrast, Hathorn refused to kowtow of the board and to the special interests, and he paid the ultimate price. The highly qualified educator resigned in the face of unrelenting attacks from his critics.

Now, these purveyors of failure have set their sights on the school district’s chief executive officer, Krish Mohip.

HB 70 provides for the appointment of a CEO with sweeping authority over the district and Mohip, a veteran public school educator from Chicago, was hired by the commission in 2016.

Since then, he has had to battle the school board, the teachers union, the Ohio Education Association and the special interests who are unhappy at being marginalized.

Mohip’s home has been vandalized three times, prompting him to keep his wife and three young children in Chicago and to explore other employment opportunities.

He is a finalist for the superintendent position in Boulder, Colo., and may well leave if the job is offered.

If he does, it will be a hollow victory for his critics because we are confident the Youngstown City School District Academic Distress Commission will not appoint a has-been from Youngstown to serve as CEO.

A national search must be conducted, just as it was when Mohip was hired.

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