Consultants, Youngstown school board meet to discuss CEO criteria

By Amanda Tonoli


The Youngstown Board of Education told consultants what it would like to see in a new CEO.

The board met Tuesday with consultants from search firm Finding Leaders of Sagamore Hills, Ohio, to discuss questions on what the board wants to see in a new district leader.

The firm was contracted by the district for $23,000.

Krish Mohip, CEO since summer 2016, is not seeking an extension when his contract expires July 31. His salary is $170,000 annually.

Steve Farnsworth of Finding Leaders first asked what Youngstown’s most significant attributes and strengths are.

Strengths listed include adequate resources, comprehensive post-secondary services, the location of the schools for a neighborhood schools concept, good families and good teachers.

“We just need the right leader,” said Mike Murphy, board vice president.

Next, board members listed areas of the greatest concern: poor academic performance, enrollment, spending practices, finding effective programs, transparency, community buy-in and retention of teachers.

“We need to find folks dedicated and who have the know-how to move our district forward,” said Brenda Kimble, board president.

Kimble also said she is concerned about the lack of funds being spent in the classroom.

Farnsworth then asked what opportunities there are in Youngstown for an educational leader.

Members responded with the cost of living, housing, growing businesses and close proximity to Youngstown State University.

“It is a close-knit community with many resources,” said board member Ronald Shadd.

But board member Dario Hunter said it’s not about what Youngstown can do for the new CEO, but what he or she can do for Youngstown.

“[This job is for] someone who enjoys a serious challenge and is willing to take it on,” he said. “That is the greatest opportunity here.”

Next, the board listed qualities and characteristics it would like to see in a new leader: a team player, someone from Northeast Ohio or local, someone with experience in an urban school district, someone who has been a superintendent or a CEO, transparency, honesty, vision and respect.

“Despite working for the state, the end goal is to educate the students of our community,” said board member Tina Cvetkovich.

Board member Jackie Adair said personality is difficult to measure: “As long as you’re not a piece of crap walking around and stomping your feet,” she said.

That question led easily to the next, asking board members to elaborate on what experience they would want the new leader to have.

Members reiterated the need for someone with experience as a superintendent and experience in an urban school district, someone with a working knowledge of budgeting who has demonstrated a record of academic turnaround.

Board member Corinne Sanderson said the district needs someone to come in and “clean house” to ensure qualified and experienced people work in the district. Those who are not up to snuff “need to go.”

Hunter asked for no one with connections to Atlantic Research Partners or The SUPES Academy, citing “ethical lapses” that occurred in the past.

During his district tenure, Mohip contracted the services of ARP which acquired The SUPES Academy, a training program for education leadership positions such as principals and superintendents. ARP later rescinded its acquisition of SUPES.

SUPES was part of a multimillion-dollar kickback scandal that sent its key personnel to prison.

Former ARP owners David Sundstrom and Joseph Wise, who did not face charges, now own Education Research & Development Institute, a business for which Mohip used to be a consultant.

Shadd said it’s important to have someone who is going to work themselves out of a job – so that a CEO becomes unnecessary.

Kimble stressed she wants someone who understands the district and is from the area. “We can’t stand to lose two to three more years in a turnaround because they don’t understand this district,” she said.

Farnsworth then asked the board what advice it would give to a new CEO.

Kimble said to just be transparent, open and honest. “Youngstown is small, and anything you do gets around,” she said.

Hunter said if an applicant is looking to pad his or her resume with Youngstown on it, don’t come.

The application deadline is set for March 22.

Finding Leaders will be conducting meetings with stakeholder focus groups to gather input and to learn about what various community groups want to see in the next leader. Focus groups will include parents, students, teachers, staff, administrators, community groups, elected officials, clergy and representatives of area service organizations.

Finding Leaders is expected to present a list of semi-finalists to the Youngstown Academic Distress Commission by April 4, with a first round of interviews set for the week of April 8.

A second round of stakeholder interviews is planned for the week of April 22, with the selection of CEO and the negotiation of a contract April 26. The new CEO will be introduced to the community April 30, with a contract beginning by Aug. 1. Anyone interested in the CEO position may contact Finding Leaders through, or by phone at 216-225-2787.