Hard work, collaboration earned praise to city schools

The positive trajectory being experienced by Warren City Schools is due in large part to the cooperative efforts of district administrators, teachers, students and learning strategies utilized in its classrooms, coupled with proactive efforts and collaborations with other area agencies and nonprofits.

In essence, it’s a community effort.

The district earned deserved praise for its academic improvement when an official from the Ohio Department of Education attended a recent board of education meeting. Clairie Huff-Franklin, director of the Academic Distress Commission and Education Reform, coupled by Warren Superintendent Steve Chiaro, made the presentation following a review conducted this spring by the state Department of Education.

This was welcomed news in light of the district’s history of poor state report card performances and past disciplinary problems that have triggered ongoing debate about whether Warren City Schools might become the next Ohio school district to fall into state control, which is allowed by legislation commonly referred to as the “Youngstown Plan.”

Under that 2015 Ohio legislation, the state transferred control from the local board of education to a state-appointed district chief executive officer. In Youngstown, that’s Krish Mohip. The reform act gives the chief executive authority to hire and fire, create budgets, set curriculum and professional development plans for staff, and has the independent ability to permanently close schools or contract with for-profits or nonprofits to manage them.

All this came about as a last resort after years of failing academic reports in Youngstown City Schools. So far, Youngstown is the only Ohio school district that operates under the state mandate.

Many have speculated that without significant and timely improvement, Warren could be the next school system to be taken over by the state. But Warren City School District has reacted positively to the threat, and this month, Huff-Franklin commended the school district for collaborative efforts that she said have move the district forward.

“The district is following an internal process with collaborative leadership and external partners. We are hopeful the district will continue in a positive direction,” Huff-Franklin said.

Like many inner city schools, not just in Ohio, but nationwide, educational challenges often reach far beyond the classroom, including community concerns such as crime rates, poor health care, educational opportunities and, of course, poverty.

But proactive efforts under Chiaro’s leadership have brought about not only improved academic outlooks, but also a reduction in disciplinary problems. For instance, Chiaro said in the last year, student suspensions were reduced and student expulsions were cut by a third. He said the school’s safety plan has been updated, and the district now has four school resource officers.

This month’s report should help the district shed a negative image, and with the existing strong leadership, collaborative efforts among staff and students, and community partnerships like one with Akron Children’s Hospital, the district should continue to move in the right direction. Other nonprofit groups like Inspiring Minds, which offers after-school, mentoring programs, also has helped students move the district along.

Parents, of course, are a big part of this equation, and we hope they understand the value of involvement and encouragement of their children.

The praise bestowed upon Warren City Schools leadership, educators and students is well earned. The collaborative efforts should be a model to other districts hoping to progress and grow.