Sunday, May 27, 2018
By Samantha Phillips
Schools Superintendent Joseph Nohra knows negative perception of the district persists in some people’s minds, so the board of education has launched a re-branding campaign to shine a more positive light on the school system.
The school district joined the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, and through the chamber’s services, the board created the website libertyproud.org. It shows a video featuring the school district’s students and staff showing their school pride.
A billboard noting the website and the slogan “The Real Story” stands on Belmont Avenue.
The cost of the video and to host the website was $4,995, and the billboard rental is about $3,600.
Nohra said the board weighed that the school district loses $1.5 million from about 250 students that open enroll in other schools every year against the cost of marketing.
“We feel we have to do everything we can to show the true school district,” he said. He added the marketing cost is less than the cost of two students leaving the district, or $12,200.
The school board added new programs recently including a robotics team, science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs and more college credit and honor courses. Career-based intervention programs are also coming to the middle and high schools. The school district also will invest in Chromebooks and other technology for every student.
Nohra said the school board wants people who research the district to see the video and learn the “true facts.”
“The message centers around what we believe have been many misperceptions that have been floating around for years. Some we couldn’t stop from growing, some are flat-out unfair,” Nohra said.
Nohra said anyone is invited to contact him and tour the Liberty schools to make their own observations, because some people tell him they are worried about unruly behavior in the buildings. Such concerns about unruliness are unfounded, he noted.
The district has been the focus of news reports after the board in April unanimously approved a resolution stating the district “will no longer grant open-enrollment consent for native Caucasian students to the Girard City School District.”
Nohra said the re-branding idea stemmed from a conversation he had with resident Marsha Levy who noted there wasn’t a lot of community awareness about the teachers and students’ success.
Levy, who has lived in the township since 1962, volunteered as a mentor for students at Liberty in a group she created called “Grandmas for Education.”
“The technology, teachers and classes are good, and there’s nothing wrong with the school,” she said. “If your child goes there, they will get a good education.”
Levy said her children had a good experience at Liberty, but suspects prejudice may be a factor in the negative perception of the schools now.
“When they started open enrollment, the people from the North Side of Youngstown wanted a better education for their children, so they were willing to transport their kids to Liberty. Then the white kids started to leave,” she said.
Nohra said the district is proud of its diversity.
“There’s a lack of appreciation for the diversity in the district because some people don’t understand that diversity is a gift,” he said.