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City schools want public’s input on future

If you go

The Youngstown Board of Education plans a series of community meetings /special board meetings to gather public input to formulate a district academic improvement plan.

When: Tuesday,

Aug. 17 and Aug. 31. Each of the meetings will run from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Where: The commons area of Choffin Career and Technical Center, 200 E. Wood St.

An option for people to view the meeting online also will be available. Forms will be provided at the meeting for people who want to express their opinions but who do not want to speak publicly.

YOUNGSTOWN — A series of community meetings will take place Tuesday, Aug. 17 and Aug. 31, all at 5:30 p.m. at Choffin Career and Technical Center, 200 E. Wood St., where Youngstown residents and other community stakeholders will be able to express their concerns about the future of the city school district.

These meetings are part of the Youngstown Board of Education’s effort to move fully from academic distress commission oversight. Gov. Mike DeWine signed legislation last month that outlines how East Cleveland, Lorain and Youngstown school districts could move from under state control.

Each of the districts will have to develop and implement three-year academic improvement plans and get them approved by the state superintendent.

The districts have until Sept. 30 to develop these plans and present them to the state superintendent of instruction. The superintendent then will have time to review the plans, make recommendations and send them back to the school districts for improvements.

Final approval of the plans must occur by the end of this calendar year.

Improvement plans must include annual benchmarks the districts must achieve. In the development of the improvement plan, the districts are required to get information from interested stakeholders. This is why the school board is scheduling the three community meetings.

FEEDBACK SOUGHT

“What we want is feedback from the community about what they feel needs to be improved in the school district,” said Ronald Shadd, city school board president. “What enhancements do they believe are needed to make the district better?”

The overall approach will be of a town hall meeting in which stakeholders will have about a minute to ask questions or voice their opinions about the district.

The meetings are expected to last about 90 minutesg. They will be in-person and also online. Forms will be provided at the meetings for people who want to express their opinions but do not want to speak publicly.

Shadd said he has been advised by the Ohio Department of Education that the academic improvement plan should be based on the strategic plan developed earlier this year by city schools CEO Justin Jennings and his administrative team.

By the end of June 2022, the plans should be finished and approved, and the three affected school districts should be in a position to have local control be returned to the elected boards of educations. The CEO positions will be eliminated.

The districts, however, could decide to hire their CEOs as school district superintendents. The Lorain board, for example, has hired its CEO, Jeff Graham, as superintendent. Henry Pettiegrew, East Cleveland’s CEO, also was named its superintendent.

Youngstown school board members have not officially determined whether Jennings will be rehired as the district’s superintendent. But some members have noted previously they are inclined to go in different direction.

GOALS

Goals identified in the district’s strategic plan, approved by the ADC, include:

∫ Improving academic performance by meeting or surpassing value-added expectations in literacy and math on the state report card.

∫ Creating a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion and excellence by seeking feedback from current staff, students and community members on diversity in the district. The district also will increase the number of employees with diverse backgrounds and experiences.

∫ Improving school and community relations, communication and partnerships by improving communications within and outside of the district, and:

∫ Creating a positive school environment that encourages responsibility. The district will place emphasis on increasing school attendance both by district employees and students.

Shadd said the board’s efforts will be to develop annual and measurable benchmarks that can be achieved.

District spokeswoman Denise Dick noted if the board decides to base its improvement plan on the administration’s existing strategic improvement plan, the administration will proceed accordingly by providing whatever resources the board needs.

‘BUY-IN’

Tina Cvetkovich, the school board’s vice president, emphasized the importance of the meetings will be to get community and stakeholders’ buy-in to future plans for the district.

“We want to learn what they want to see in schools,” Cvetkovich said. “It is important for these meetings to be packed. We want to learn what parents and what the general public would like to see in our schools.

“We are hoping for an open dialogue between parents and school board members on a variety of topics. That’s why we are having three meetings to give those interested to be able to express their opinions.”

This is Cvetkovich’s second term on the school board.

Board member Jackie Adair said she does not want to use the strategic plan developed by the district’s CEOs.

“I am not in favor of using any plan developed by (former CEO Krish) Mohip or Jennings,” Adair said. “We need to hit the ground running and come up with a plan.”

Adair said the Ohio Department of Education sent people to look at the district for three years, which provided recommendations on its strengths and weaknesses.

“We should use these recommendations as the foundation of any academic improvement plan,” Adair said.

Adair said the board should follow the advice of its attorney Edward L. Ostrowski, of Youngstown, and hire an outside expert to help write the improvement plan. “We need a gunslinger to come in and help us write the recovery plan,” she said.

Shadd said since the state finalized the law providing an avenue for the three ADC districts to move from under state control, the Ohio and Youngstown education associations and the Ohio School Boards Association have said they would do what they can to help.

“We also are talking to East Cleveland and Lorain school boards to learn if what they are doing may or may not apply to us,” he said. “Each of the school districts are working together.”

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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