YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – On Friday, the Youngstown School Board learned that the state approved its academic improvement plan. Tuesday night, the board met to start implementing the plan.

This is a lame duck board, so no decisions were made. That will likely wait until the two new members start on January 1. But we did get an idea of what the board will face to rid the school district of the Academic Distress Commission.

Youngstown School Board President Ron Shadd began the meeting with the news that many people associated with the school system had been waiting to hear.

“So the reason we’re here today is because we got feedback from the state that our plan has been approved,” he said.

But after some applause, the reality of what’s facing the board set in.

“It is going to be really crucial what happens over the next few months,” Shadd said.

The plan has 24 academic benchmarks. At least 13 must be attained by June 2027 for the school system to be released from the control of the Academic Distress Commission. Attainment is 80 percent of students being proficient on state tests.

Board member Jerome Williams asked how the board should track the benchmarks so it doesn’t find out halfway through that it’s way behind.

“I would ask for at least a quarterly report from your chief academic officer,” said Kim Miller-Smith, with the Ohio School Boards Association.

Miller-Smith also recommended hiring an independent third party to track the benchmarks.

“You need to address your good, the bad and the ugly, and you’re exactly right Jerome, you don’t want to be halfway through and find out you’re really far behind,” Miller-Smith said.

The board will eventually have to decide who will run the school district. Will it keep current CEO Justin Jennings? Or hire a superintendent? Board member Tiffany Patterson suggested it be a priority.

“I believe we need a leader in place who needs to be part of these conversations as we move forward,” Patterson said.

Shadd, who was not re-elected, told the board to watch over the absentee rate which, at the moment, is around 55 percent. It needs to be 20 percent in three years.

He also said to make sure students are tested. Right now, the testing rate is between 12 and 40 percent, according to Shadd.