YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Hours after it was announced that Justin Jennings had resigned as superintendent of the Youngstown City Schools, the process of replacing him has already become a debate.

School board President Tiffany Patterson wants an interim, then to wait until after the November election for a permanent superintendent. She said four of the seven positions are up for election. But past president and longtime board member Brenda Kimble said “the search needs to begin now.”

In 2019, Jennings took the position of CEO while the Youngstown City Schools District was under state control. He became superintendent on July 1, 2022, when the state returned control to the locally elected school board.

Patterson said Jennings verbally informed her Monday that he is resigning June 30 “for personal reasons” and he was going to submit it in writing later that day.

“We met around noon, and he told me that he was going to resign,” Patterson said. “Of course, I didn’t want to accept his resignation.”

Jennings didn’t have anything in writing at the meeting. As of 8 p.m. Monday, he has yet to submit a written resignation.

From the moment he took over, he insisted on calling the students “scholars” — a term that would spread through the entire school system.

“I think he’s done a great job. He set a foundation for us to continue to work on, structure for improvement,” Patterson said.

School board member Kimble has been critical of Jennings. She released Monday the following statement regarding his resignation:

I think the decision is best for the Youngstown City School District. However, him leaving the district makes it imperative for the board to discuss and research every contract that has been created, if we intend to focus on funding education and teacher support.

Patterson said she knows an interim needs selected, but she would like to hire a permanent replacement after the November election. This way, those on the school board can make the choice they want.

“He’s done so much that hasn’t been done in these past 4+ years that he’s been here,” Patterson said. As you walk through the schools it’s just a whole different attitude. Me and the other board members — we can see the change.”

One moment Jennings will best remembered for came in February 2022 during an intense discussion on making him superintendent. He challenged all of Youngstown to be better.

“When people come to Youngstown, they don’t think of good. Aren’t you tired of that? I’m not from here, but I’m tired of that. It’s disheartening,” he said at the discussion.

School board member Joe Meranto, who was superintendent while Jennings was CEO, released the following statement Monday:

I wish him nothing but the best going forward. He always treated me fairly. My main concern is moving this district forward. We have a lot of work to do before next summer.

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On Monday evening, Patterson released the following statement to families in the school district on behalf of the board:

Dear YCSD Families:

As president of the Youngstown City School Board, it is my responsibility to share news with our scholars, families and community members.

I am sure that most of you have already learned via social media, local news or word-of-mouth that Mr. Jennings is stepping down from his position as YCSD Superintendent. While this may be true, the rumors floating around, surrounding his departure, are not.

Many people would like you to believe he did something wrong during his time in the district. That could not be further from the truth. During his four plus years, he consistently demonstrated his unwavering dedication to the district while building a foundation and framework for continuous improvement. Out of his steady leadership came a plan of recovery and infrastructure enhancement. Simultaneously, he and his team worked alongside the school board to develop our Academic Improvement Plan. The Board believes in the instructional coaching model, leadership coaching and resource alignment he has instituted. We believe in the leadership team he has put together and are confident we will meet the benchmarks of our AIP and beyond. From day one, any decision Mr. Jennings made was always about what’s best for our scholars. 

Mr. Jennings’ reason for his resignation is private and the board will respect that as we begin to move forward.