YES Announces Its Support of Youngstown Plan

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The announcement in front of the Central YMCA Thursday morning sounded eerily familiar as the speakers extolled the value of education, called for accountability in Youngstown city schools and urged community involvement in reforming them.

YES – the acronym for Youngstown Educational Solutions – which describes itself as “a new coalition of concerned residents and community leaders,” presented Tracy Winbush, Tisha Brady and Daryl Anderson Jr. as advocates for the Youngstown Plan.

The Youngstown Plan is an initiative to turn around the lackluster performance of Youngstown public schools by removing control from the school board and superintendent and transferring it to a five-member commission who will choose a CEO with near-dictatorial powers, its opponents charge.

The CEO, who will be paid by the state of Ohio, will have the authority to unilaterally reopen the collective bargaining contracts with the Youngstown Education Association and staff lacking certificates such as bus drivers and cooks, hire and fire administrators and turn failing schools over to the owners of charter and for-profit schools.

Winbush, active in Republican Party politics, hosts a radio talk show on WSOM, “Tracey & Friends.” Brady, who earned baccalaureate and master’s degrees at Youngstown State University, teaches English at Columbus State University. Anderson, a freshman at YSU, graduated from Cardinal Mooney High School after transferring from East High School.

Also present to help Winbush, Brady and Anderson answer reporters’ questions were Matt Rado, state outreach director for StudentsFirst Ohio, and Nick Santucci, manager of education and workforce development for the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber.

Winbush, who noted she’s been a city resident 20 years, opened the meeting with reporters by declaring, “It’s a new day, a new dawn for Youngstown public schools. And we’re going to take back the system.”

Not just students’ scores on the state standardized tests must improve, Winbush said, but the overall quality of education. She called for accountability and students and teachers to increase their efforts.

Without a quality education, Winbush said, students aren’t qualified to go on to college and compete for better-paying jobs.

The school district spends $13,000 per pupil per year, Winbush said, but only $8,000 of that sum goes to the classroom.

She was reminded that the salaries the Youngstown school district pays its teachers are the second-lowest of the 15 districts in Mahoning County.

Who’s at fault for the condition of Youngstown schools, a reporter asked.

Students, teachers and parents, Winbush responded, before retreating on teachers when a reporter suggested that most Youngstown teachers are dedicated to their profession and work hard under trying conditions.

Parents need to be more involved in their children’s education, the talk show host said, and the schools should be more welcoming to parents who show an interest.

For parents who don’t get involved, she suggested that YES volunteers go door to door and hold one-on-one meetings that would encourage their taking a greater interest in their children’s learning. Candidates for political office – Winbush is a former member of the Youngstown Board of Education and sits on the Mahoning County Board of Elections – go door to door as part of their campaigns. Why shouldn’t volunteers do likewise, she said.

The bar should be raised and more should be demanded of both students and teachers, Winbush said. YES wants to help raise the bar and help students meet those higher expectations.

YES, she explained in a press release prepared by StudentsFirst Ohio, “is a coalition of Youngstown-area residents parents and community organizations working to ensure that the community is engaged in the implementation of the Youngstown reform effort. Members are meeting with interested residents and forming a grassroots base of individuals to become part of the process of defining a successful school district.”

Asked to provide specifics on how this is to be accomplished, Winbush repeated the goals YES has set out.

Winbush paid for the YES buttons that she, Brady, Anderson and two other students wore, Rado said, although StudentsFirst paid for the cardboard signs attached to the lectern.

Funding for YES has been minimal and StudentsFirst has not paid any YES expenses other than the signs. Those interested in learning more about YES or its activities can reach organizers at [email protected] and track their efforts on Twitter at @YESYoungstown, Winbush emphasized.

Brady, a graduate of East High School, declared that Youngstown schools “are killing our children, killing our hopes, killing our dreams. … As it stands, the system is an insidious cancer [destroying learning and education].”

Improving the system requires more than simply raising scores on the state standardized tests, she said. Trust in the school system must be restored so “quality education can return,” a “quality education that is evidence-based and has desirable outcomes.” Such a system would lift children out of poverty but first it requires the community to come together and pull together.

Anderson spoke of his experience at East High School and the challenges he faced when he transferred to Mooney, which he first referred to as a private school. Mooney is more demanding academically, the YSU freshman said, the discipline stricter and the security better.

“The transition to a private school was rough,” he related, but he availed himself of a better education and was prepared for college. He praised Mooney, where “the rules were enforced” for “being more organized” and imposing “more discipline.”

One aspect of reform Anderson advocates is “a dress code” that school administrators and teachers actually enforce.

Pictured: Tracey Winbush (at lectern) addresses reporters during yesterday’s news conference.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.