NAACP official: Y'town schools need plan, work with state

By Samantha Phillips


Youngstown City School administrators need to devise a multifaceted plan and work with the state to improve the school district’s test scores and education, says Jimma McWilson, vice president of the NAACP Youngstown Branch.

McWilson and branch President George Freeman discussed these actions at a community forum Thursday night titled “Race, Racism, Class and Poverty in All Areas of Public Education.”

McWilson, along with other local NAACP officials, met with state education officials April 13 to discuss actions state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria can take through an amendment to House Bill 70 to get the district out of its rut.

The first action, they said, is to address racial bias.

McWilson believes race plays a big factor in public education, despite comments from Youngstown Superintendent Joe Meranto last month stating failures in the school district are a poverty issue rather than a race or union issue.

“We say no, race trumps poverty, but only when it comes to African-American kids. Data statewide says that kids in poverty are outscoring African-American kids,” he said.

The low expectations some teachers have for black students needs to be addressed, McWilson said.

Next is to have specific, measurable goals in Youngstown school board’s contract with the teachers union. Both McWilson and Freeman say licensed teachers should be held accountable to follow state curriculum.

Freeman said students’ grade-point averages should be recorded every nine weeks.

That is because teachers need to not only follow their contract and state standards, but do their main job – help students succeed, McWilson said.

“Until you have accountability for performance and outcomes, nothing is going to change in the African-American community,” he said.

A teacher can’t help if a student isn’t at the standard level of reading, but the teacher can push the student to close the gap and grow, he said.

McWilson said teachers need to be supported by school resources such as professional development. And they need to be backed by the administrative staff, especially in situations where they struggle to teach because there’s disorder in the classroom, he said.

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