Youngstown schools CEO should not keep his bonus

Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich’s office sent the following email in response to the Sept. 16 editorial headlined “Y’town schools CEO Mohip has a year to deliver results”:

“I recently read your editorial on Krish [Mohip] and the state report cards.

“Please know on the 21 test-based indicators, proficiency rates in Youngs-town increased on 13 of those. The 8 that decreased all followed statewide trends.

“I’d be happy to have the Governors’s education advisor follow up with you [to] take an in-depth look.”

The email came from a high-ranking member of Kasich’s staff.

The editorial was prompted by the fact that the academically troubled urban school district is still in trouble. Here’s what it said, in part:

“There’s cause for concern but no reason to panic – yet – over the Youngstown City School District’s continuing academic turmoil. Eight years have passed since the urban district was placed in academic emergency by the state, and while there have been some improvements, the overall grade of “F” remains a stark reminder of the deeply rooted problems undermining progress in the Youngstown schools.”

But it isn’t only the governor’s office that disagrees with our gloomy assessment of the district’s performance.

Last month, after the results of the statewide tests were made public, the Youngstown City School District Academic Distress Commission, which has statutory authority over the system, gave Chief Executive Officer Mohip, who has been on the job since June 2016, a $6,000 bonus.

Mohip has a three-year contract that expires July 31, 2019. In the first year he was paid $160,000, in the second, $165,000, and in the final year of the agreement he’s making $170,000.

Here’s how distress commission Chairman John Richard, who was appointed by the state superintendent of public instruction, justified the bonus when asked about it by Vindicator Education Writer Amanda Tonoli:

“The commission feels adequate progress is being made and essentially we are wanting to say we give support to the progress.”

Three of the four commission members attended the Sept. 27 meeting and voted in favor of the bonus: Richard, Maria Hoffmaster and Nicholas Santucci. The fourth member, Vincent Shivers, was absent.

New course charted

Mohip, who came to Youngstown from the Chicago public school system, has spent the past couple of years trying to prevent the listing ship that is the city school district from sinking. It is true that the CEO has charted a new course for the district that holds out the promise of academic success for the children of the urban system.

Asked by Reporter Tonoli for a comment on the $6,000 bonus, Mohip said, “I’m excited to see the progress the district is making, and I’m excited the Ohio Department of Education recognizes the work being done in Youngstown.”

On Wednesday, The Vindicator’s Editorial Page Editor Bertram de Souza and Tonoli met with Mohip and other district officials to review the finer points of the state report card. Barbara Mattei-Smith, assistant policy director for education in Gov. Kasich’s office, called in from Columbus to offer the administration’s take on the progress being made in Youngstown.

Mattei-Smith did not mince words in expressing the state’s support for Mohip and for the changes taking place.

She said the programs that have been implemented are already showing results, but she also pointed out it will take time – five to seven years – to completely erase the failures of the past.

This newspaper has been unwavering in its support of the restructured school district because the inept elected school board has been stripped of just about all its power. CEO Mohip is in complete control of the day-to-day operation and the distress commission is the policy-making body.

That said, we are troubled that no one in the administration nor on the distress commission warned that the $6,000 bonus would create a public- relations nightmare for the district.

Indeed, the commission rewarded the CEO with an $8,000 bonus last year.

While Mohip is deserving of recognition for the progress being made in Youngstown, it’s too early for monetary appreciation. So long as the grades in the various test categories are Ds and Fs, the administration and distress commission should stick to highlighting the good things that are occurring.

It should come as no surprise to Mohip or anyone else that the bonus is a flashpoint for his detractors who continue to yearn for the bad old days.

The CEO can silence his critics by donating the $6,000 to one of the many programs for at-risk children.

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