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Youngstown school board president says superintendent is stepping down

Youngstown Superintendent Justin M. Jennings
Youngstown City School District
Youngstown City School District website
Youngstown Superintendent Justin M. Jennings

Youngstown City School District Superintendent Justin M. Jennings has told his school board that he will resign, after roughly a year on the job.

School Board President Tiffany Patterson shared a letter sent out to families Monday that confirmed Jennings told her he was stepping down. She argued that while "many people would like you to believe he did something wrong during his time in the district," that could not be "further from the truth."

Jennings was previously the CEO of the school district for three years. The CEO reported directly to a state-appointed academic distress commission, which had control over the district between 2015 and 2022. During that time, Jennings allegedly spent $5 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds on internet equipment that was meant to provide internet access to students and Youngstown residents throughout the city; that plan reportedly died on the vine after city officials objected to the plan due to a lack of ownership of all utility poles in the city, which the equipment would have needed access to, WFMJ reported in March 2023.

Jennings was hired as the school district's superintendent in 2022, after control of the district was returned to the school board.

Board President Patterson said Jennings was a leader who was committed to the district.

"During his four plus years he consistently demonstrated his unwavering dedication to the district while building a foundation and framework for continuous improvement," she wrote. "Out of his steady leadership came a plan of recovery and infrastructure enhancement. Simultaneously he and his team worked alongside the school board to develop our Academic Improvement Plan."

She said his reason for resigning is "private," and did not say whether the public controversy over Jennings' spending had anything to do with the decision.

"The Board believes in the instructional coaching model, leadership coaching and resource alignment he has instituted," Patterson said. "We believe in the leadership team he has put together and are confident we will meet the benchmarks of our AIP and beyond. From day one, any decision Mr. Jennings made was always about what's best for our scholars."

Patterson confirmed Jennings is stepping down but said she's still waiting for a written resignation letter. Jennings did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent Tuesday.

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.