Challenges face city schools

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It’s back to the classroom Tuesday for students in the Youngstown City School District.

The district has improved their rating from Academic Emergency to Academic Watch since last year, but those designations are now gone from the state report card. Now, a letter grade system has been implemented. Nine different criteria are taken into account with a total of 15 that will be implemented by 2015. The Ohio Department of Education gave Youngstown City Schools: 5-F’s, 2-D’s and 2-C’s.

Some lawmakers don’t like the new system and said they would like to start over. The system also makes it difficult to compare a district’s performance from last year.

Youngstown Superintendent Connie Hathorn said the district has been working with an academic distress commission since 2010 and has a plan in place. He said the district doesn’t need any help from lawmakers. Hathorn was referring to Governor John Kasich’s remarks regarding a new law that gave Columbus control over its public school system. Kasich said Youngstown should consider the same plan.

Another hurdle facing the Youngstown School District as students return to the classroom is the current contract negotiations between teachers and the Board of Education.

Teachers have agreed to work under their old contract until Sept. 30. A federal mediator has been involved in the most recent talks.

The Youngstown Education Association’s contract expired June 30, and the union authorized its bargaining team to issue a 10-day strike notice if needed. Both sides appear to be far apart on compensation and health care issues.

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