CEO Mohip, others to canvass homes to bolster student attendance

By Denise Dick


In Canfield or Poland, a 98 percent attendance rate the first day of school is expected, but Youngstown schools CEO Krish Mohip is aiming at that target for the city district.

“I’ve been in schools in the past where we had 96, 97 percent,” he said, referring to his tenure in the Chicago public schools. “We’re a small district, and there’s a lot of support for getting our kids to school.”

An urban district with high student mobility, the city schools’ attendance on the last state report card was 91.2 percent. And a lot of students don’t show up until a week or two into the school year – sometimes later.

The district’s chronic absenteeism was 31.4 percent on last year’s report card.

At East High School, attendance was only 85.9 percent with a 54 percent chronic absenteeism rate.

To help the effort, Mohip has organized a Welcome Back to School neighborhood canvass today.

From 3 to 8 p.m., Mohip, district staff and administrators and members of the community will fan out across the city, visiting homes to remind parents, guardians and students that school starts Monday.

Participants will meet at 2 p.m. today at East, 474 Bennington Ave., for training and neighborhood assignments.

“We’re going to show we have one, unison voice with people willing to go knock on doors before the first day,” Mohip said.

The district includes 3,000 homes. The number of homes visited will depend on the number of participants, the CEO said.

At least two school board members will miss at least part of that effort. Corrine Sanderson and Jackie Adair have called a special meeting for 3:15 p.m. today. The purpose is discussion regarding board polices for appointments, committees and evaluations.

Adair said the plan is to go to the training for the canvassing, leave to go to the special meeting and to return in an hour to 90 minutes to help canvass.

Sanderson agreed.

Adair said she’s tried at regular meetings to glean information about how a bullying issue was addressed and the recently released state reports documenting inefficiencies in the district’s Title I, special education and transportation departments.

“We’ve talked about this until we’re blue in the face” and nothing has been concluded, Adair said.

Sanderson said the board has to get “on the same page” regarding committee appointments.

“The issue is still not settled as far as understanding appointments,” she said.

Mohip had asked Sanderson to serve on the Tax Incentive Review Board not knowing that Brenda Kimble, board president, already had appointed Jerome Williams to that panel.

But Sanderson said that according to board policy, that appointment has to be made by the full school board. That hasn’t happened, she said.

At the last school board meeting, Mohip said he would take over committees, after members had discussed committee meetings and whether Ohio Sunshine Law had been followed in scheduling committee meetings and taking minutes.

Committees aren’t expected to meet until after a board retreat, which hasn’t been scheduled.

Sanderson said committees are a board concern and they should be able to meet.

“It’s a big question about board authority,” she said. “We have to maintain the authority we have.”

Under leadership of a CEO, the school board is an advisory group. Members don’t have authority to decide issues. They can vote to make recommendations to the CEO, but decision power rests with Mohip.

“It’s something that needs to be addressed to make sure we’re all on the same page,” Sanderson said.

Both Adair and Sanderson acknowledged that today’s meeting may not draw enough school board members to get a quorum, or four members. Without a quorum, members cannot vote. No members of the administration are expected at the meeting either. Many of them will be participating in the canvass.

Tuesday is the board’s next regular meeting, but Sanderson said discussion about such topics is curtailed at regular meetings, with concerns for time given as the reason for curtailment.

Since the beginning of this calendar year, there’s been a divide on the school board. Generally, when there has been a split vote, Kimble and Michael Murphy, board vice president, and Williams and Ronald Shadd have voted together, with Adair, Sanderson and Dario Hunter voting the opposite.