Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to show that the local chapter of the NAACP was not involved.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – An activist group held a virtual press conference Tuesday morning to address its issues with the Youngstown City School District.
Jimma McWilson claimed that decades of failure have made the Youngstown City Schools the worst district in all of Ohio — placing 609th out of 609 districts statewide.
Representing a group he calls the “African Education Party,” McWilson took aim at Youngstown’s Board of Education, elected city leaders, church pastors and even state officials in Columbus, saying the community as a whole needs to rise up.
He said the group was formed 10 years ago when Jay Williams was mayor to look for ways to improve the school system, which was getting failing marks from the state even then.
“These persons need to be asked this question, ‘How is it that you can sit here on positions of power and these kids can’t read?'” he asked.
McWilson pointed to failing state report cards in Youngstown since the late ’90s, long before the state took over the district.
“The Academic Distress Commission should never have been here if the local board had done its job 12 years prior,” McWilson said.
He claims that after spending $3 billion over the last two decades, the district is still failing.
“If he wants to call out somebody, he needs to look in the mirror,” said Youngstown Board of Education President Brenda Kimble.
Kimble claims McWilson himself is part of the district’s problems for supporting the state’s takeover at a time when she says the board is doing what it can to help students.
“If he wants children to actually learn, whether they’re African American or not, then he shouldn’t have supported that,” she said.
But McWilson argues that the problems are rooted in what he calls “centuries of racist brainwashing.”
“They do not believe that African American children can learn at high levels,” he said.
McWilson claims as other cities have improved their own schools despite poverty and other problems, Youngstown’s Black community needs to step up as well.
“We have to solve it. We have to liberate our kids from what I call a plantation of undereducation, miseducation, misdirection and misinforming,” McWilson said.