Commission chooses Jennings to replace CEO Mohip

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After less than five minutes of deliberation, the Youngstown City Schools Academic Distress Commission named Justin Jennings the district’s new chief executive officer.

The commission unanimously voted at a special meeting Thursday morning for Jennings to replace Krish Mohip. Jennings is currently the superintendent of Muskegon schools in Muskegon, Mich. Mohip, who is paid $170,000 annually, was appointed in June 2016, and his contract expires July 31.

Jennings plans to accept the job and will schedule several local events to introduce himself to the community.

“I want to put systems in place to help the board take back control of the district. My goal is to put myself out of a job,” he told The Vindicator Thursday afternoon.

Ohio House Bill 70, also referred to as the Youngstown Plan, created the CEO position.

HB 70 was signed into law by former Gov. John Kasich in July 2015 and enabled a state-appointed academic distress commission to hire Mohip to lead the district and turn around its failing academic performance.

The bill gives the CEO complete operational, managerial and instructional control, which the locally-elected school board has contested in court.

The local board and others have filed suit to overturn the law, and the Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.

To replace Mohip, Youngstown City School District hired search firm Finding Leaders of Sagamore Hills, Ohio, for $23,000. One hundred fifty people applied for the position.

John Richard, distress commission chairman, expects Jennings’ contract to begin Aug. 1, but is planning for a transition period to ready Jennings for the upcoming school year.

It is the commission’s intent, Richard explained, to enter into a three-year contract with Jennings.

Richard said Jennings’ love for students set him apart.

“We’re excited about him. He’s a very engaging person. He’s a real listener. I think that came out loud and clear,” said Richard,

Cindy Larson, president of the Muskegon City School District, said she is sorry to see him leave.

“I have no question that he will be wonderful. We are going to miss him. This was, I know, a tough call for him, because he was committed to our kids 100 percent and our staff,” Larson said.

Despite conflict with the commission this week, the Youngstown chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has promised to collaborate with the new CEO.

“We’re going to do the same thing to Mr. Jennings that we did to Mr. Mohip. We’re going to work with him,” said local branch president George Freeman.

The NAACP had a news conference Friday morning after being accused by the distress commission of finger-pointing rather than providing solutions for academic improvement.

At the conference, Freeman explained that the state lowered proficiency standards for black students and increased the same standards for white students.

“Lowering expectations does not help in the long run,” Freeman explained.

He said he hopes that Jennings will help fight this issue.

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