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Youngstown board hears bus, bullying complaints

Father, driver report issues

YOUNGSTOWN — City school board members Tuesday night heard complaints about bullying on school buses, including complaints from a bus driver.

Also, the board listened to an elementary school student who shared his struggles with reading.

An emotional moment at the board meeting came when a father, Samuel Quinones, sought answers for why nothing was done when, he said, his autistic child was assaulted on a Youngstown school bus about two years ago. Quinones said the incident occurred on Jan. 15, 2020, and he received no calls from the principal when it happened.

Holding back tears, Quinones said that for two years he has been attempting to obtain the incident report but has yet to do so.

“What else am I supposed to do? Take it to court? I’m asking for somebody to help me,” Quinones ended his presentation to the board.

The incident occurred before Youngstown City Schools CEO Superintendent Justin Jennings started his tenure, but Jennings said Quinones has his contact information but the two have not spoken yet.

“I’m gonna do what I can to help,” Jennings said.

Addressing an old policy in which eighth-graders were bused with kindergarteners, Jennings said those age brackets no longer share a bus.

The board also heard from Amanda Benka, a bus driver who stated the school buses have a discipline problem. The driver of six years said she has been called vulgar names by students daily. Benka also claimed students have brought guns on the buses.

Benka said she was frustrated by the lack of action that stems from reporting the incidents. The mounting frustration due to lack of discipline, she said, has contributed to drivers quitting.

She said more accountability is needed by the forming of a department to monitor complaints. Benka also called for more accountability from parents stating that some parents have been disruptive towards bus drivers by cutting them off in vehicles and holding up the bus.

The driver finished her statements to the board by saying she feels burnt out.

Board member Brenda Kimble said after the meeting about the bus situation: “Clearly it’s a problem, we’ve gotten complaints over the years, and we can’t keep saying these things are happening because there’s a shortage. We need to take care of the drivers that we have.”

Kimble also urged more action from administration on hiring more drivers to help accommodate the issue of overcrowded buses.

READING STRUGGLE

A fifth-grader from Volney Rogers, accompanied by a guardian, stepped to the podium and shared his struggles with reading, asking the board members for help.

Speaking from his childhood reading struggles, board member Kenneth Donaldson sympathized and commended the student for his courage.

Jennings said after the meeting the school will work individually with the student and get him the help he needs.

Over the next few weeks, Jennings said Youngstown schools will be adding to its current literacy plan by starting an after-school program designed to reach students that struggle over reading skills.

“It’s an intensive 10-week … boot camp. We’ll have a teacher and another tutor to help them with literacy. So we do have things we’re looking at,” Jennings said.

Further addressing the subject, Jennings emphasized while the district has shown some improvements in early literacy, it’s not as fast of a recovery as he has hoped for.

In other issues:

l An update was given by Harding Elementary School Principal David Bermann about the condition of a boy student at Harding Elementary who was struck by a car walking home from school. Bermann said the student is recovering from injuries and soon will be released from Akron Children’s Hospital;

l Board President Tiffany Patterson and the board announced the winners of an Anti Bullying poster contest that received more than 140 entries from Youngstown students in grades K-12.

cmcbride@tribtoday.com

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