YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown City Schools CEO Justin Jennings wants the community to be more involved so he held a public meeting Tuesday evening and invited everyone to participate.
Ever since taking over as CEO, Justin Jennings has faced an uphill battle. Now he wants to hear from the community on how they can better the district.
About 50 people crowded into the commons of Choffin Career and Technical Center downtown. The goal was to talk about getting the school district back on track with Jennings.
“Listen and respond respectfully to all ideas,” Jennings said. “I’m going to listen, my expectation is for everyone else to do the same.”
Not long after the meeting got started, the first idea was made known — protesting House Bill 70, which puts Jennings in power.
“Local control, no CEOs. I mean every word of it,” Hattie Wilkins said.
After they made their opinion known, Jennings wanted to get the meeting back on track.
“Whether someone considers me an outsider or whatever, that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to educate students,” he said. “Our focus has to be what we’re here for and that’s our students.”
Jennings spent time talking about coaching, leadership and communication. He even went as far as mentioning how the district got an F on the state report card and, at one point, the attendance issue.
“You know where the biggest area is? Kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, which means their foundation is gone,” Jennings said.
He eventually broke everyone into six groups and asked them to name strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the district.
One of the most-talked-about negatives was lack of communication.
“Lack of understanding is one of the things that is the most important there,” Daniel Smith said. “People just don’t understand one another because they don’t communicate.”
Ayanna Walker mentioned the parents.
“That’s the biggest problem,” she said. “We need to learn how to reach the parents that was failed by the same school system.”
Many people kept a positive mindset.
“Our opportunities are that we have a chance to turn the school system around,” Louis Muhammad said.
This was the first of these community meetings. Jennings said he would see what the response is before deciding on another one.