Academic Commission Hears Plan to ‘Market’ Youngstown Schools

Youngstown City Schools Superintendent Connie Hathorn unveiled plans Thursday on how he would like to market the district and presented those ideas in front of the state’s Academic Distress Commission.

Weeks after unveiling his plans to streamline the Youngstown City Schools because of years of declining enrollment, Hathorn said the district needs to improve its image, especially among families that now send their children somewhere else for an education.

School administrators believe there are roughly 5,000 children in the district enrolled in charter schools or in other outlying districts.

“I think sometimes people just don’t know what we’re doing. We know internally, but externally, do they know?” said Hathorn.

Dr. Adrienne O’Neill with the Academic Distress Commission is overseeing the district and said far too much time has been wasted spreading “mixed messages.”

“The superintendent’s evaluation and what grade he got from the board and whether or not the board’s going to renew his contract or whatever, for my money, I don’t care,” said O’Neill. “What I’m really interested in is bringing up the achievement of all students in the district.”

To that end, Hathorn has been meeting with parents in the district to explain the changes that will be taking place next year as well as progress that’s being made academically. But he told members of the Commission he wants to bring in a marketing firm to help spread the word.

“Last week, we sent out maybe 5,000 letters to all the charter school students, open enrollment students. I’ve invited parents of those students to meet with me on April 11 at 6 o’clock,” said Hathorn.

Hathorn plans to have each city school represented at the session to highlight its activities, including a little-talked about program that offers full-ride scholarships for East and Chaney graduates to attend Youngstown State University. The hope is a more positive message will bring students back to the district.

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