preview of what I'm going to say
Posted by: Jennifer Lewis
Date: January 07, 2008 02:40PM
I would like to welcome the new board members. You have a daunting challenge to face. It falls to you to repair three and a half years of damage to this district. The departing board members did you no favors. Not only did they help to create the mess you now face, they also did their best to cripple you in your efforts to bring order out of chaos.
That said, I still think the new board has what it will take to overcome the obstacles placed in your path.
Fortunately for the district, the two members of the old board who never put the welfare of the schools before their own political ambitions have been replaced. By combining the best of the old with the new, we now have a stronger board, capable of leading the district.
Your long-range goals are simple. You must reclaim enough of the students who left for charter schools and open enrollment to make the district fiscally sound. You must improve scores. You must provide a curriculum that prepares students to succeed in life. I DID say "simple", not "easy".
Your short-range goals are far more problematic. You need to cut the budget without sacrificing safety or academics. I would suggest eliminating all duplication of effort positions at the central office and letting go anyone who lacks the credentials for the position they hold.
You need to make the schools safe. To do this, you must first reverse the penny-wise pound-foolish efforts of the administration to cling to the bad students and keep them in the classroom whatever the cost. Making suspensions excused absences, overturning suspensions and failing to expel students has kept a few state dollars in the district while driving hundreds of good students to flee the district in fear for their lives. The rules must be enforced firmly, fairly and impartially. Students who commit felonies in school must be expelled. The district should press criminal charges against student felons. The administration should uphold efforts at the school level to enforce discipline. No suspension should be overturned without a full investigation by the full board.
Your most difficult short-range goal is to earn the trust of a community that has learned to be very cynical regarding the Youngstown City Schools. To accomplish that goal, your executive sessions should never be longer than your open meetings. Debate over issues on the agenda belong in the open forum, not executive session. You must make public information readily available to the public. You need to let the community know what is happening in the schools and what you are doing to address the issues. You must not lie, spin or diminish to cover up problems in the schools. A riot where the police are forced to mace 50 students to end the fighting should not be dismissed as a minor disturbance. It should result in suspensions and expulsions and the number of suspensions and expulsions should be told to the community. We are not reassured when incidents are swept under the rug. We want action to match reaction and consequences to fit crimes. You need to listen to students, parents and concerned members of the community, and you should use their input to help you determine the correct actions to take in re-building the district.
I wish you all the best and I am willing to meet with any or all of you to discuss anything pertaining to the schools.