A closer look at the opinions of Youngstown’s newest school board members

Local News

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Last week, Youngstown voters elected two new people to the school board. The Reverend Kenneth Donaldson and Dawn Turnage will be the new members.

Should the state superintendent of schools dissolve the current Academic Distress Commission, running the schools will return to the school board in June, so these are important positions.

Rev. Donaldson, pastor of Youngstown’s Rising Star Baptist Church, has been volunteering in the city schools for 14 years.

“I’m kind of on the front lines,” he said.

Turnage runs the city’s parks department, dealing with Youngstown’s youth every day.

“If I want to implement change and change ideas, I wanted to go heads in first,” she said.

Rev. Donaldson’s top priority for the city schools is parental accountability.

“If your child is misbehaving regularly, then you need to be up at the school to see what they’re doing,” he said.

Both Rev. Donaldson and Turnage support getting rid of the Academic Distress Commission.

“House Bill 70, there was a different plan for that. It was not utilized the correct way from the beginning,” Turnage said.

“They had a superhero mentality and it failed. I knew it would fail, and so here we are,” Rev. Donaldson said.

Last week, the current Youngstown school board passed a plan to get the schools out from under the control of the Academic Distress Commission.

“I think the benchmarks are low. The goal has to be much, much higher,” Rev. Donaldson said.

“I did agree with it. I did believe in the plan. I believe that it was a great start for us to go from there,” Turnage said.

Should the school board regain control, would they consider hiring current CEO Justin Jennings as superintendent?

“At this point, I would. Mainly one of the things that I see about Justin is Justin is not afraid to have people that are smarter than him around him,” Rev. Donaldson said.

“I’d be interested to see who we have locally. Someone who was born and raised also in our Valley that knows the ins and outs. Has also possibly even worked alongside Mr. Jennings,” Turnage said.

Rev. Donaldson graduated from Rayen, where he was part of the 1985 state championship basketball team. He has been pastor of Rising Star since 2007.

Turnage graduated from Cardinal Mooney in 1988 and later from Youngstown State. She became the parks director in 2018.

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