(WKBN) — Our in-depth segment this week is with Youngstown City Schools superintendent, Justin Jennings. WKBN Community Affairs Director will speak with Jennings about what trauma the youth has been enduring in the district.
Jennings became superintendent effective July 1. What does that mean other than transferring of board responsibility? Have his responsibilities changed?
“No, not at all. I mean, the only difference is now I don’t make policy and legislation in the district. The board does that. So before with the CEO, I did. I had all the control to do all those different things were budget and everything now. So actually we are interviewing for a new treasurer because I’m not over the treasurer anymore, so it’s a little different,” said Jennings.
Expectations of impact upon delivery of services, say Sept. 1, would it show any difference as far as distribution of funds, staffing, number of buildings or responsibility for the Youngstown City School System?
“No, we really for the last now going on four years, Aug. 1, just plan to look at all those different things that we’ve been doing that work. We’ve been making the cuts where we need to make them but also investing in areas that we need to invest so that won’t change at all,” said Jennings.
We’re hearing a central theme of trauma and the impact that is having on our youth and our children. What is Jennings as the superintendent seeing? What are the teachers and professionals saying to him as the superintendent? As far as number one, impact on the ability of our students to learn, and secondly, communication value opportunities for our students to know that there’s someone that they can go to and talk to about this.
“Right. Well, there’s a twofold answer to that. First of all, is actually our scholar trauma. But the second piece, which is a secondary piece that we often miss, are the adults we have a lot of adults who brought trauma to our students, and you just couple that with everything else is going on right now in our community, the violence and different things like that. It has a huge impact, and we know in our school district about 40% of all of our kids have someone who has been incarcerated or has been incarcerated or currently incarcerated in the last six months in their household. So that’s something — the violence and also the trauma impact learning every day,” said Jennings.
Jennings agreed it’s not just single parent households because again, what our youth are saying is not only the violent trauma but the impact of seeing the mother struggling to put food on the table. Nutrition, being evicted, moving from home to home — not even homeless, but by definition, not stable housing. Children bring that to the classroom each day.
The schools provide three meals a day and sometimes a meal home to carry home. So the school staff is not only an educator, they’re a nutritionist and food provider.
“But definitely, the education field since even before COVID. But even after COVID is evolved, we are social workers. We have psychologists. I mean, so in some cases where parents also a huge percentage of all of our students, they don’t live with a parent, not even single or both. They live with a grandparent or a foster. So our homeless population has almost tripled since COVID. So it’s definitely something when we think of trauma, it definitely has a huge impact. And I mean, you add on school shootings and different things like that,” said Jennings.
Crawford and Jennings’ next conversation will further delve into the issue of trauma.