AKRON, Ohio — Christine Fowler Mack, the superintendent of Akron Public Schools, announced her resignation Monday evening after a school year filled with headlines of school violence, a near teacher strike and contract negotiations.
The Akron Board of Education voted to approve her separation at Monday’s meeting, with members stating the departure was a mutual decision.
But the big question now is, what’s next?
Fowler Mack’s resignation didn’t come as a surprise for APS parent Teresa Ridgeway.
“I think it was necessary. I wasn’t surprised. It is what it is. I wish her luck and I’m just ready to move on,” she said. “I’m hoping we can get somebody in place that’s really ready to look at that code of conduct to talk about consequences, to talk about making things stick and really actually promoting a change for Akron Public Schools.”
Pat Shipe, the president of Akron’s Education Association said that she, too, is ready for the district to turn a new leaf.
“With anybody and anything, sometimes it’s not just a good fit,” said Shipe. “We wish Superintendent Fowler Mack all of the best with whatever she moves forward into.
The board voted to hire Fowler Mack in April 2021, following the retirement of David James. A 1984 East High School graduate herself, Fowler Mack was the first female leader of the district. She will leave just two years into her 3-year contract.
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Current Executive Director of Elementary Education, Mary Outley, was chosen to fill the role, starting Tuesday.
Shipe is hopeful that whoever comes next is willing to work on the problems that have plagued the district: school safety and security.
“That we can move forward and work with people who have authentic desire to have some really tough discussions and tackle some really multi-layered problems that face our district, our students, our teachers, our community, at large,” she said. “A lot of these are challenging and difficult conversations, they’re uncomfortable conversations to have, but if you’re in a leadership position you have to have those conversations,” she said.
She said since the near-strike in January, the administration and AEA have begun to have those discussions regarding change in school safety. Monday, AEA presented to the board the first steps to a multi-layered safety approach.
The board approved a pilot program called Yondr. It is a company that produces a magnetic-locking bag. The idea: Students drop the phones in the bag at the beginning of the day and unlock them at the end of the day.
Shipe said cell phone usage is a distraction in class and, sometimes, used to organize fights or create drama between students.
“I have heard from many parents that are fully supportive of this program,” she said. “In talking to districts that have implemented this and talking to students in those districts, parents, administrators, we expect push back, initially, but those students and parents were won over by the increase in grades, the increase in security within the buildings, the ability for students to focus more and have more relationships without looking at their phones,” she said.
Ridgeway agreed that cell phone usage is a problem for some students in school but doesn’t agree with taking away phones for every student.
“Instead of taking away the phones from the kids that are the problem, we are just going to take them away from everybody to be fair. That’s not being fair,” she said. “Have that be a consequence if you’re inappropriate with your phone— it gets locked up— I’m okay with that. What I am not okay with is taking away the only access I have to my children when you’re asking me to send them into an environment that’s chaos; that’s not safe.”
The first schools to have Yondr bags in the next few weeks are East, Ellet and Buchtel community learning centers.
Fowler Mack’s last day is March 4.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan released the following statement regarding Fowler Mack's resignation:
Statement from Mayor Horrigan on the resignation of Christine Fowler-Mack as superintendent of Akron Public Schools. pic.twitter.com/bw64CoQ6US— City of Akron, Ohio (@AkronOhioMayor) February 14, 2023
RELATED: Superintendent Christine Fowler Mack stepping down from Akron Public Schools
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