In a gesture of selflessness amid job uncertainty, a school's CEO donated his $10,000 bonus to bus drivers and food service workers.
Some people are inherently compassionate and go out of their way to care for others. Justin Jennings, the CEO of the Youngstown City schools, proved himself to be such a person when he announced in 2021 that he would be giving away the $10,000 bonus he received from the Academic Distress Commission (ADC) to workers in the district. According to WKBN, Jennings and his family decided that he would give away the money to help bus drivers, bus aids and food service workers in the district. After the amount was subject to taxes, it came out to $8300, but Jennings took the extra step and took money from his savings to make it $10,000.
All bus drivers would receive $100 in cash, thanks to his generous contribution. Funds that were left over would be put on gift cards for food service workers. Jennings spoke about his gesture, saying, "I got my bonus for performance, which I appreciate and I appreciate the ADC for recognizing what we do, but we wanted to make sure that we shared it with people who have really been on the frontlines." He further added that many of these drivers and aid workers came in for work when others did not.
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Sometime later, there was information that Jennings would leave the district to occupy a new position at Akron Public Schools. It was reported that the school board was contemplating giving him the role of assistant superintendent. The job would have a generous salary of $183,102 and he could start from January 3, 2022. His decision to move was also because of the Ohio Department of Education's plan to remove the ADC from working with the district. This normally happens when an Ohio school gets an F or less than a two-star rating consecutively for three years.
Ronald Shadd, the Youngstown school board president, commented about this move: "The purpose of this is to bring back local control. What has happened so far with state control hasn't been a remedy to the declining performance of students in Youngstown." While the ADC was originally put in place to aid student performance, it has not been very effective and requires change. Confusion ensued as Jennings's new job offer soon became revoked to make way for negotiations and salary talks.
In fact, Dr. John Richard, chairman of the ADC, refused to talk with anyone from the city's Board of Education. He also sent an email talking about certain "allegations" that he did not want to explain, as reported by WKBN. The basic premise was that the Board of Education was manipulating Jennings' potential employment. His letter read, "Unfortunately, with the unfolding of events as I understand them surrounding Mr. Jennings' potential employment with Akron Public Schools, specifically the communication between some members of the Youngstown Board with those on the Akron Board, that trust is no longer warranted."
The ADC ended up approving Youngstown's academic improvement plan in December 2021. The effectiveness of the plan will be looked at towards the end of the 2025 academic year. Fast forward to June 2023 and WFMJ shared that Jennings had given his letter of resignation to the school board. According to Yahoo! Finance, he would begin working as the Chief Membership Officer for the Institute for Education Innovation (IEI), which works to create collaborations between pioneers in education globally. Doug Roberts, CEO and IEI founder, expressed that the company was "honored" to have Jennings work for them.