Now hear this: Boarding school isn’t an orphanage

The knee-jerk reaction to an idea that’s in its infancy but holds out the promise of a bright future for at-risk children in Youngstown and other communities is not surprising.

The nabobs of negativity have been responsible for Youngstown City School District’s academic collapse following years of failing grades in the statewide proficiency tests.

The students have been the losers.

The idea for a public boarding school was borne out of sense of desperation on the part of someone who’s on the front lines of the battle to keep young people on the straight and narrow.

Mahoning County Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick regularly sees the negative effects on children who live in dysfunctional homes that lack structure, guidance and love from parents or guardians.

Indeed, many of the homes have only one adult – more often than not a mother or grandmother – who could use a helping hand, even in the best of circumstances.

The boarding school would provide at-risk students in the county with the safe haven they so desperately need.

The criticism being leveled at Judge Dellick and the small group of caring individuals who have been brainstorming is unfair and unjustified.

Nothing is etched in stone – not even the location. To be sure there’s talk of an East Side site in the vicinity of the Mahoning County High School, but as Judge Dellick pointed out during a news conference recently, other suggestions will be considered.

It’s noteworthy that the juvenile court judge was one of the founders of the Mahoning County High School, which opened in 2008 to give students who had been expelled or dropped out one last chance at earning a diploma. More than 300 students have done so.

That’s why Dellick and other members of the Mahoning Valley Children’s Task Force should have the opportunity to at least lay the foundation for the residential school.

Future involvement

There will be many opportunities for all interested parties, including members of the Youngstown Board of Education and other boards of education, to get involved in the development of the project.

The idea that the children’s task force is perpetrating a sinister plot to imprison Youngstown’s children in orphanages is ludicrous and insulting. A boarding school is not an orphanage.

We would urge anyone who’s interested to go online and access The SEEDS Public Charter School of Washington, D.C. It’s the nation’s first college-preparatory, public boarding school.

Dellick and her colleagues have studied SEEDS and other such institutions.

According to its website, the mission is to provide “an outstanding, intensive educational program that prepares children, both academically and socially, for success in college and beyond.”

The school opened in 1998 and has 370 students in grades six through 12.

Students spend 120 hours a week on campus from Sunday through Friday.

Students do not pay to attend.

While the boarding school is not a part of the controversial House Bill 70, commonly referred to as the Youngstown Plan, it is a natural progression to what has taken place in the city school district since 2015 when the legislation was signed into law.

State-declared academic emergency resulted in a special academic distress commission replacing the school board as the governing body.

A chief executive officer with sweeping powers and authority over the day-to-day operation of the district has supplanted the superintendent.

The first CEO was Krish Mohip, a veteran educator from Chicago who came to Youngstown and immediately locked horns with the school board, which now serves in an advisory capacity, and the teachers union.

Mohip chose not to extend his three-year contract and the commission hired Justin Jennings, an educator from Muskegon, Mich., as the CEO.

On April 1, 2018 – Easter – Vindicator Editorial Page Editor and Columnist Bertram de Souza published a column with the headline “Y’town’s children must be saved.” This was the opening paragraph:

“On this the holiest day of Christianity, only the truth will set the Youngstown City School District free. What is the truth? That the academic reforms put in place through House Bill 70 – the Youngstown Plan – will fall short so long as a large number of the city’s children continue to live in dysfunctional homes.”

A boarding school, properly administered and managed, is the answer to what ails the county’s at-risk kids.

They deserve a chance to succeed.