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School District Chief Gifts His $10k Bonus To Bus Drivers & Food Service Workers While His Job Status Remains Unclear

Photo: Youngstown City School District
Justin Jennings CEO of Academic Distress Commission

In Youngstown, Ohio, the Youngstown City Schools CEO was awarded a $10,000 bonus from the Academic Distress Commission but he decided to pay the bonus forward.

“I got my bonus for performance, which I appreciate and I appreciate the ADC for recognizing what we do,” Justin Jennings said in an interview with WKBN, “But we wanted to make sure that we shared it with people who have really been on the frontlines.”

Youngstown City Schools CEO Justin Jennings gave away his $10,000 bonus to workers in the school district.

Jennings decided to share his bonus with the bus drivers, bus aides, and the food service workers in the district who help keep the schools running.

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After taxes, the bonus ended up being around $8,300, but Jennings decided to withdraw the full $10,000 out of his personal bank account in order to give the full amount away.

Each bus driver and aid will be given $100 in cash while all the leftover funds would be put on gift cards for the food service workers to use.

According to Jennings, many of the bus drivers and aides have had to work on days when other workers had the day off. He planned to gift the cash and gift cards in-person sometime before the holidays.

During the ADC meeting, he congratulated and thanked President Ronald Shadd and Jackie Adair for the work that they do on the Youngstown school board — presenting them with plaques for all of their time spent.

Justin Jennings's job is in a somewhat unstable position at the moment.

This all comes during talks, negotiations and drama surrounding Jennings’ employment status for a new potential position as assistant superintendent for Akron public schools.

A spokesperson for Akron Public Schools confirmed that they were offering Jennings a job as the assistant superintendent with a salary of $183,102 that would take effect January 3, 2022.

This move came as a result of the Ohio Department of Education’s approval of a plan that could remove the Academic Distress Commission from overseeing the district, thus providing the ability to remove Jennings as the CEO of the schools and instead implementing a superintendent.

“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,” said Shadd.

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The ADC was originally introduced in order to improve students’ performances, but Shadd doesn’t believe it has worked so far and wants to switch things up.

However, Jennings’ removal and new job offer have been tabled in order to allow for more negotiations and potential salary talks.

Under the new plan, the ADC would serve as an advisor to the board instead of overseeing the schools, but Shadd says it’s too soon to say whether or not they want to remove Jennings from the position.

As a result, Dr. John Richard, the ADC chairman, has cut off communication with the city’s Board of Education and sent an email regarding ‘allegations’ he doesn’t elaborate on — claiming that the Board of Education has been interfering with Jennings’ potential employment.

“Unfortunately, with the unfolding of events as I understand them surrounding Mr. Jennings’ potential employment with Akron Public Schools,” read Dr. Richard’s letter, “specifically the communication between some members of the Youngstown Board with those on the Akron Board, that trust is no longer warranted.”

Hopefully, we can move forward beyond this incident with the new version of the board after January. However, until that time, there is no reason for further communication between the current board and commission.”

Jennings could have used his $10,000 giveaway as some sort of leverage for his position — buying the hearts of the workers and solidifying his position in Youngstown in order to boost his current salary.

Or, it’s Jennings’ last hurrah before he moves over to the Akron Public School District for his new position as the assistant superintendent.

Either way, it’s a kind gesture that will help fill these workers’ pockets just in time for the holiday season.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Follow him on Twitter here.

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