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

He gifted those who perform largely thankless jobs in schools.

justin jennings Youngstown City School District

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 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. According to WKBN, the the bonus ended up being around $8,300 after taxes, 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 meeting, held by the Academic Distress Commission (ADC), he congratulated and thanked the Youngstown school board president Ronald Shadd, presenting him with plaques for his service.


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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 on January 3, 2022.

This move came as a result of the Ohio Department of Education’s approval of a plan that could remove the ADC from overseeing the district, which happens when an Ohio school receives an F or less than a two-star rating for three years in a row. Removing ADC oversight provides the ability to remove Jennings as the CEO of the schools and instead implement 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.


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, in 2021, Jennings’ removal and new job offer were 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.

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As a result, Dr. John Richard, the ADC chairman, 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 had 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, specifically the communication between some members of the Youngstown Board with those on the Akron Board, that trust is no longer warranted," read Dr. Richard’s letter. "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.”

In December 2021, the ADC approved Youngstown's academic improvement plan, which will be evaluated for effectiveness at the end of the 2025 academic year.

Jennings was ultimately appointed as superintendent of the Youngstown City School District but has since resigned.

In June 2023, WFMJ reported that Jennings submitted his resignation letter to the school board. Yahoo! Finance reported that he would take on a new role as Chief Membership Officer for the Institute for Education Innovation (IEI), which aims to connect educational leaders across the nation.

"Justin is respected among his peers for his steady and calm leadership in Youngstown during the most challenging of times, and we're honored that he will be joining our team," Doug Roberts, CEO and IEI founder, told Yahoo! Finance.


Jennings could have used his $10,000 giveaway as some sort of leverage for his position. Instead, he chose generosity, gifting those who perform largely thankless jobs in schools. 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.