Optimism Spreads As Mount Vernon Schools Begin Transition

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New Mount Vernon Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Hamilton is a big reason for a lot of the optimism.
New Mount Vernon Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Hamilton is a big reason for a lot of the optimism. Photo Credit: Contributed

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – With new leadership at the top, and a clear vision in place for students, optimism is reaching a new high in the much-maligned Mount Vernon School District.

With New Jersey educator Kenneth Hamilton poised to take over from interim Schools Superintendent Judith Johnson on Aug. 11, and a multi-year rebuilding plan in place, things are finally looking up for the district.

Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest Davis said that it was important to shake things up in the district with such radical changes.

“If our educational system is not producing what is necessary to serve our children, then we need to change the educational system,” he said. “From a citywide point of view, this is our future. I’m hopeful that the new superintendent will provide the energy and sustenance needed for the children in our community.”

Last year, as the state adjusted to the new Common Core Learning Standards – which Hamilton said he has “mixed feelings” about – Mount Vernon students scored among the lowest in the state on standardized testing.

State Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who represents the city and is a product of the school district, said that if the community and schools hope to continue turning things around, all hands are needed on deck, from maintenance workers on through Hamilton.

“(Johnson) galvanized the community around the fact that our children required us to be a participant in their education, and she created an involvement among people in the community that had never been involved before,” she said. “My office and all of its power is behind (Hamilton) and the children of this district to ensure they have the greatest opportunity for success.”

In an effort to continue building ties between the school district and community, there will be a pair of events next month for the public. On Aug. 2 there will be a cookout at the district office and on Aug. 30 there will be the annual Back to School Fair, where volunteers distribute bags filled with various supplies.

“This gives us a chance to partner with city organizations,” new Board of Education member Omar McDowell said. “We want to partner with anyone willing to partner with us. We want to bring the new superintendent into a community that is engaged and ready to watch our students succeed.”

Hassel-Thompson added that the situation at the school district rapidly improved under the leadership of Johnson.

“Johnson came to us at a time we were feeling a sense of hopelessness about whether or not we could educate our students,” she said. “Now, success is dependent on all the people who participate in this educational process. I’m excited about a lot of things and I’m more hopeful than I’ve been for a very long time.”

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TOO much emphasis is being placed upon the position of school superintendent. More the spotlight should be illuminated on the elected board members. I have watched this School district decline since the era of the ICA to the now clergy controlled party. My children attended this system when there was less political turmoil within it. I watched as Ronald Ross, who a lot of people criticized, as board members, like the now National Republican Party, road blocked his, every proposal thereby forcing him to leave.

The Coleman led forces that did not like the fact that he had very strong and determined personality.
He cleaned house and fired the under-performing teachers who rode the gravy train of tenure.
I realize he is in hot water presently, but he was on the right path for the education of our children, politics never deterred his motive

I have watched the weak “YES” personalities follow. I hope this hired superintendent has the gonads to stand up to the political and corrupt forces that are so deeply ingrained within this system. These forces, and you know who you are, could care less about the education of the children. Their main goal is MONEY, POWER AND FAME.

WE must clean the SCHOOL BOARD, house and just, maybe this superintendent and those who follow, will wipe their feet before entering.

The question that should be put to the parents and taxpayers is, ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC?

I'm a taxpayer and I'm not optimistic. And I know parents who are in the process of transferring their children into private schools - some of those parents are taxpayers but will do whatever they have to do so their children will receive a quality education, which is no longer available in Mount Vernon.


The only people who claim to be optimistic are those compensated by our taxpayer dollars. Are they high fiving knowing they have another superintendent that has the potential to be manipulated?


I believe you are shooting at the wrong target,have you lost sight of the Black Clergy of Mount Vernon? Think about the group formed to challenge the Italian power structure, there are many targets to aim at in this group.
In my opinion: Davis is, and has always been, a TOOL in this education process.

As a matter of fact the way he is running and has run this city displays part of the lubricant needed to grease the powerful Democratic Machine politics of this entire county.


You're right about the Black Clergy. Thanks for reminding me about them (and I'm fully aware of their destructive force in the city and especially in the schools).
As for Davis being a TOOL, he's definitely that, especially in the Shakespearean sense.

If this man is principled, and the school board members are principled, perhaps the citizens might have some reason to become optimistic.
Until this school district rids itself of corruption and the entire associated “ism” (crony, nepot, and patriot), the more the superintendents change the more things will remain the same.


Until honest non-political board members, who have the education of the students as the highest priority, are found, I shall remain pessimistic about this school district’s present leadership. Superintendents may come and go, but until the future board members become MORE non-political and LESS self-serving, this district will never function properly.

When such people come forward to serve, they are quickly dispatched by the Black Clergy and the Democratic machine. It's difficult to imagine what it will take to break the stranglehold these groups have over our city.

This self congratulation is a bit premature. The leadership of MV has been "turning things around" for a long time. The problem is that, in fact, the situation only gets worse. In addition to being incompetent, they are delusional.

Mount Vernon's best Superintendent of Schools was Dr. William Pratella. He improved the schools to the point where many of them were recognized nationally as being "schools of national excellence". When he was forced to resign, mainly because Mayor Ernie Davis wanted an "African-American" Superintendent, the schools went right downhill, with the failing rate of students increasing year after year, starting with Pratella's succesor Ronald Ross, and continuing right through with Welton Sawyer and Judith Johnson. Now we'll see if Dr. Hamilton can reverse all the major damage that was done by his predecessors of the past 20-plus years.
I can't be optimistic about this, because I know how poorly run are the schools. I'm a realist and believe the students will continue to have one of the highest failing rates in the state.