Youngstown programs give pupils wide variety

Nearly 2,000 middle school pupils are involved in the river study project.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The city school district is moving forward with several programs that address issues from water conservation to improving math scores, self-esteem and mutual respect.
The city school board heard from several educators and others on the programs Tuesday.
Cathy Constance, the district's supervisor of science programs for kindergarten through grade 12, told board members Tuesday about the 3-year-old Mahoning River Education Project. The project gives middle school pupils in grades five through eight opportunities to study concepts such as water recycling and conservation as well as the local ecosystem and "ways to improve the quality of life" in the Mahoning Valley, Constance noted.
The program, which includes about 1,950 middle school pupils from 10 schools, features many hands-on and problem-solving activities as well as field trips to a water treatment plant and other sites. It is set up to increase pupils' awareness of their environment and ways they can protect it, and is aligned with the Ohio State Academic Standards in science, math, language arts and social studies, Constance added.
Collaborative program
Last August, the school system began a collaborative program aimed at improving math scores. Marilyn Leslie, district math supervisor for kindergarten through grade 12, said that the Mathematics Specialists Project has 10 teachers who act as math coaches by going to assigned schools to assist in the classroom. The teachers work with school staff by team teaching, demonstrating lessons and helping to implement standards instruction, she said.
Alicia Lawrence, a licensed social worker at Mahoning County Children Services Board and co-founder of Ladder of Opportunities Inc., introduced the ladders program. Lawrence, Shawn Trowers and Tiffany Traylor started the intervention program last October to identify and provide services to district pupils ages 10 to 18 who have faced suspension or expulsion, have various discipline problems or are considered at-risk. Among the services provided are self-sufficiency skills, peer relations, mentoring, anger management and drug/alcohol education and prevention.
Goals include decreasing suspension rates and tardiness and improving child, teacher and parent relationships and school attendance, Trowers noted.
Empowering kids
"We want to bring these children into a setting to allow them to express their areas of concern and offer programs to increase self-confidence so they can have friends and work with others. We [also] want to include the whole family and teachers to empower these kids," Trowers said.
Also at the meeting, Superintendent Wendy Webb introduced a three-part Capturing Kids' Hearts program designed to emphasize the importance of mutual respect between adults and pupils and to teach various leadership and other skills to school administrators and teachers so they can be better equipped to de-escalate potentially volatile situations. An adult's response to a challenging situation goes a long way toward determining its outcome, Webb said.
At their organizational meeting, board members named Jacqueline Taylor and Michael Write as board president and vice president, respectively, for one year.

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