New Youngstown Schools CEO not only has to fix academics, but earn community’s trust

Local News

Justin Jennings said that gaining the community's trust is vital to implementing his new academic plan

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The soon-to-be former Youngstown City Schools CEO Krish Mohip attended a few school board meetings after taking over. When he quit, he referred to the school board as an advisory unit, to which he rarely asked advice.

On Tuesday, the soon-to-be new CEO Justin Jennings attended his first school board meeting. He will take over on Aug.1, saying he hopes to work with the school board.

Jennings will have his hands full improving the academic performance of a struggling school district that’s short on resources. But his biggest challenge may be earning the community’s trust.

“It’s my goal to work myself out of a job,” he said.

Jennings said he wants to present his vision for the school district to the community, something his predecessor failed to do.

“There was no model for what it takes to turn around this school district presented by CEO Mohip,” said school board member Ronald Shadd.

According to Jennings, the way forward for Youngstown Schools is simple.

“I know my job is to make sure we’re fiscally responsible but at the same time making sure that we put that money in the classroom and it focuses on our scholars learning,” he said.

Jennings knows that gaining the community’s trust is vital to implementing his plan.

“Right now, we are working through trust, and I think that’s important for not only the ADC and the board but the community as well,” he said.

For some on the school board and in the community, the controversial law known as House Bill 70 — which led to the formation of the Academic Distress Commission and the appointment of a CEO — made things worse as the previous CEO spent money on programs that didn’t work.

“We were on that route prior to HB 70 and now we’re in the situation where we don’t have monies. We don’t have money to spend on students,” Shadd said.

Many also believe that HB 70 causes more problems than it solves.

“Until that’s repealed and replaced by a law that returns control of education to local communities, we will be stuck with this model,” said school board member Jacqueline Adair.

HB 70 has been in effect in Ohio since lawmakers passed it in 2015.

The school board also tabled discussions over putting a levy renewal on the November ballot at Tuesday’s meeting.

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