YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Teachers within the Youngstown City School District gathered at a Youngstown Board of Education meeting on Friday to make it known that they want a former principal reinstated.
Back in November, it was announced that 21 jobs in the school district would be eliminated, 18 through layoffs and three through retirements. Then, in June of this year, 14 more employees were to be laid off, including McGuffey Elementary School Principal Cathy Dorbish.
Retired Youngstown teacher Kathy Buonavolonta made her feelings about Dorbish’s layoff very clear at the meeting.
“This is probably one of the worst decisions that Youngstown City has ever made,” she said.
Behind her were 30 people — mostly teachers — protesting the layoff, some of whom hung signs around the room. A Facebook page with 340 followers has even been created titled, “Bring Back Cathy Dorbish.”
“There’s not many principals, supervisors, bosses — whatever synonym you’d like to use — that has the ability like Cathy Dorbish does to lift their team the way she does,” Buonavolonta said.
Current McGuffey teacher Heather Shields said she was heartbroken to hear of Dorbish’s layoff.
“We stand here today asking for your support to have Cathy Dorbish reinstated as the principal of William Holmes McGuffey Elementary School,” Shields said.
The Youngstown School Board listened but told the crowd that because of the restrictions put on Youngstown City Schools through House Bill 70, they can’t help.
“There’s very little, if anything, we can do about any decisions that have been made,” said Youngstown School Board member Jackie Adair.
Shields said the group is looking to repeal HB 70 — which allows the state to take over academically distressed school districts, like Youngstown — and implement House Bill 154, which would dissolve all state takeovers of public schools in Ohio.
The teachers are hoping their message gets to state leaders.
Two members of the Academic Distress Commission appointed to oversee the Youngstown City Schools, Nick Santucci and Dr. Maria Hoffmaster, were also at the meeting.
“The Board and the Commission have made a pretty mutual agreement that we want to work better together,” Santucci said.
Santucci said the layoffs were made to save money, that the Academic Distress Commission had serious concerns about the school system’s finances.
He also said that the CEO, by law, has the right to eliminate jobs.
Regarding bringing Dorbish back, Santucci said, “I’m not sure if the Commission is responsible for that, but we are certainly willing to have a conversation with the CEO and understand the reason behind it.”
Youngstown City Schools spokesperson Denise Dick released the following statement:
Reductions in Force are never popular and emotions run high. Upon arriving at YCSD, CEO Krish Mohip hired administrators to meet the needs of students — many that hadn’t been met for years. As processes and procedures improved, the district has been able to winnow down some of those positions. This latest RIF, as well as the one late last year, are a part of that. The decisions aren’t about individuals. They’re about positions. Additionally, the school board and others in the school district and the community have for months complained about the YCSD administration being top heavy. They pointed to people’s salaries and called for reductions. You don’t get to have it both ways.”
The latest state report card for the Youngstown City Schools showed that McGuffey Elementary had F’s in five out of five categories. However, job performance had nothing to do with who was laid off.