Y'town schools commends Officer Russo for safety work
By Amanda Tonoli
The Youngstown Board of Education on Tuesday recognized school officer Terry Russo for his work in keeping the schools safe, and his message that violence is unacceptable.
Russo, a retired city police officer of 34 years, is someone who met the qualifications of making a difference, said Bill Morvay, city schools chief of security.
“I asked for our administration and staff to nominate someone who stood out to them, or if they have someone who really made a difference in their building or in somebody’s life – especially a student,” he said. Russo was nominated by district visual and performing arts coordinator Tracy Schuler Vivo.
Schuler Vivo’s nomination letter says there’s no better person that comes to her mind for the award.
“I’ve felt privileged to work with him in his capacity of school officer for the Youngstown City School District,” she said.
“He has proven himself time and time again as an important and valuable resource. Whenever I see Terry in the building, he immediately stands out due to his pleasant demeanor, positive attitude and overall general sense of caring and concern to all those he encounters. He continually demonstrates positive student/officer interaction; he’s an effective communicator and effectively exudes officer/school administration interaction at the highest level.”
Russo sends a strong message that violence is unacceptable, Schuler Vivo continued.
“The end of this school year was a challenging one for Chaney [high school], and on two occasions I found myself working alongside Terry in one of the most difficult parts of any teacher, administrator, coordinator or officer’s job,” she remembered.
“There were several disturbances that broke out at dismissal during the last two days of school that required officer interaction. In both instances, I found myself working with Terry and with the students who were at the heart of the disturbances.
“Terry’s first reaction was to find someone who could connect with the student in order to gain trust in an attempt to regain a sense of peace to the situation. On both occasions, I happened to cross Terry’s path, and we were able to settle the student before further action was necessary,” she recalled. “What I noticed was that in these moments of intense confrontation, Terry’s tone of voice, his approach and his caring attitude did not diminish but became even more prominent in dealing with these young lives.”
She said she feels fortunate to work with Russo because of his control of a given situation and his ease in handling such matters.
“He turned a difficult situation into a teachable moment for the students involved,” she said.
Russo accepted his award and gave a tearful thank-you to everyone.
In other news, district Superintendent Joe Meranto recognized another award winner in the district: Colleen Murphy-Penk, chief of transportation. Murphy-Penk won the William Rice Award of Excellence for the Pupil Transportation Supervisor of the Year.
Murphy-Penk became the city schools’ transportation chief in September 2016 after serving as the Austintown School District’s transportation director for many years.
In other business, Meranto said the Ohio Department of Education will be sending in a team to review the district and its practices March 19.
“They will review all things: academics, finances, district leaders, including the board,” Meranto said.
“This was a scheduled visit. Because of our academic situation, [ODE] send[s] a review team in every year.”