Educators, Community Members Discuss Tutoring Initiative

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Jackie Adair, a former math teacher and Youngstown City School District board member, said she remembers when the former superintendent decided to turn East High School to seventh through 12th grade in an effort to downsize.

“This African American seventh-grade student spoke at a board meeting publicly, stating that his math class didn’t have a regular math teacher that whole school year,” she said. “It had been supervised [by] substitutes.” 

The student was worried because he and his classmates performed poorly on the state test, and they didn’t want to be held back, Adair said. This is still relevant, she said.

Community members and educators gathered Wednesday morning on the second floor of the Cobbin Building, 1350 Fifth Ave., to discuss the ongoing issue of “academic segregation” within the Youngstown education system and their next plan of action as new funds have been approved for a tutoring program.

Councilman Jimmy Hughes, 2nd Ward, sponsored American Rescue Plan funding for the Fathers and Mothers Involved & Loving Youth (FAMILY) Empowerment Student Achievement Institute tutoring initiative for $90,000, which was approved by Youngstown City Council.

The 2022 Ohio Department of Education academic expectations/goals for Black students is 54.8%, compared with 84.3% for white students. This is a reflection of a big issue, Adair said.

Of the 1,965 Black students tested in the fall of the 2022-23 school year, a little more than 85% scored between a D and F in math. The school district reported 63.82% of those Black students received an F.

“The urgency of this situation has been recognized by our City Council, who voted last December to approve ARP funds to support the effort presented to you here today,” Adair said. 

Reading scores reported by the school district were not much better during that time period. Almost 74% of the 1,596 Black students tested received a D or F – 52.01% of the total received an F.

Adair tutors students in math, and she urges others to “pick up the torch” and help with the program, as well.

“The city’s image of being poor, dumb and violent must change, and that change will begin with education,” she said.

The conference was led by Jimma McWilson, co-founder of the FAMILY Empowerment Student Achievement Institute. The institute, which started in 2006, has impacted more than 30,000 people in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

“It was all about making that choice and engaging kids,” he said. “Part of tutoring – we got the scholars that had a 3.0 [GPA] or higher, and we set up a school on the weekend in Martin Luther King Elementary School.”

Every weekend, students would gather to work on their homework, McWilson said. 

“Kids have always been at the heart of my consciousness,” he said. “I found that to be the same in the people I was dealing with. No matter what their perspectives were, at the end of the day, they cared about kids.”

McWilson said his goal is to assemble community members and challenge the power structure.

Members of the Northwest Evaluation Association, a nonprofit organization that creates academic assessments, stated on July 26, 2021, they would look at the district every quarter, rather than the end of the year.

The City Council-approved proposal was for diverse groups of people in the city to be able to take a call, find a child and then help that child get to a different level, McWilson said. 

“Right now we are going to be dealing with Councilman Jimmy Hughes and the mayor to make sure we can start this process,” he said. “We would like to start this process this month.”

In the meantime, McWilson said they have to do more outreach and attempt to work with the district to identify the students they need to reach out to.

“These are kids that are out of school and those within the context about to graduate, and they are in the bottom of the level,” he said. “That would be a preventative piece, whereas most of it is intervention for those that are already outside of the system.”

“The $90,000 is to be paid to a tutor that is willing to tutor a child to get to the basics,” he adds.

It is now the communities turn to intervene, McWilson said.

“With $80 million coming into the city and almost that amount of money coming into the district, I just thought when I saw the $7 million for athletics I was concerned,” he said. “We should have had $7 million for reading, $7 million for math, and at least we would be making a big statement of what needs to be done. Is athletics the priority or is it the education of the children?”

Lois Thornton, founder of Thornton & Thornton Tutoring Services and a retired elementary school principal in Youngstown City Schools.

First of the 10 speakers was Lois Thornton, founder of Thornton & Thornton Tutoring Services and a retired elementary school principal in Youngstown City Schools. She said she had been an educator for more than 40 years. 

“My experience within the Youngstown City Schools leads me to tell you that reading and math is most important in our scores and how our children perform on the proficiency test,” she said. “Thornton & Thornton educational services led me to start that tutorial service because there were so many parents in the city that would ask me. ‘Mrs. Thornton, is there some way you can help me with my child?’” 

Thornton said she met parents all over the city who were unable to help their children past a certain level because of their own educational barriers. 

Thornton & Thornton is now a licensed childhood center that is aimed at fixing the educational gap for students who are struggling with grades in the school system. Currently, the services are for students age 5 to 14.

“We are going to broaden that scope and go further with older students who need our help and might be afraid to say [it],” she said. 

“Children don’t come in pieces,” Thornton said. “They come in a whole person. When we have a whole person enter the room, they might need help or they might be accelerated. We don’t just stop there.”

Thornton said it doesn’t stop there. They also do work with intervention, prevention and acceleration so students are well-rounded and prepared. 

“You can’t beat a reader,” she said. “If you can’t read a playbook, you don’t know the plays.” 

Teaching used to be a “noble experience,” Thornton said. Now she said more efforts are needed to help the students.

“We have been trying desperately hard to get local people who are in control to just sit down with us and listen to what we have to offer,” said George Freeman Jr., former president of the Youngstown NAACP branch.

Other speakers included Homer Warren, former Youngstown State University professor and author of “Producer Consciousness – A New Mindset for Education”; Louis Mohammad, first vice president of the NAACP; Joyce Lomax, child development associate; James Brown, Building Bridges to Youngstown and NAACP president; Darla Dunlap of DL Concepts; and Phillip Warren, retired Youngstown City Schools educator.Those wishing to get involved can call 330 967 0280 or email

Pictured at top: Jimma McWilson, co-founder of FAMILY Empowerment Student Achievement Institute Inc.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.