District to protect 2 legacies with school name

YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown City Schools says it will continue to honor William Holmes McGuffey with a school campus named in his honor, however a local historical society dedicated to the educational pioneer wants the district to do more.

On April 29, city schools Superintendent Jeremy Batchelor sent a memorandum to Richard Scarsella, William Holmes McGuffey Historical Society board chairman, stating Chaney Middle School will be renamed Volney Rogers Elementary School at the McGuffey Campus when elementary students and staff take over the building next school year as part of the district’s reconfiguration.

The memorandum comes in response to an April 3 letter from the society to board President Juanita Walker, in which Scarsella requested the district return the building to the McGuffey name given to it in 2008.

“WHMHS feels it would be appropriate to name a school building once again in memory of Mr. McGuffey, who taught millions of Americans how to read,” the letter states. “I hope you and the board of education will see fit to continue the McGuffey legacy by renaming a building in his honor.”

Scarsella said McGuffey lived and learned in Youngstown in the 19th century and became known as “America’s Schoolmaster” and “America’s Storyteller.”

In 1836, he published his McGuffey Eclectic Readers. The letter explains that McGuffey Road is the path McGuffey’s father made through the woods for McGuffey to attend school at Rev. William Wick’s parsonage, which is now the site of Youngstown Rayen Early College.

The McGuffey homesite — known as the McGuffey Wildlife Preserve — on McGuffey Road in Coitsville Township is a National Historic Landmark, donated by the society to Mill Creek Metroparks in 1998.

A plaque still hangs in the Volney Rogers building, commemorating the 2008 renaming of the old West Elementary School on Schenley Avenue, approved then by the board of trustees.

Scarsella said he and society board members prefer a full renaming.

“Since our society named the building once before, we thought the issue was settled,” he said. “I’m very glad to hear that Mr. Batchelor appears to be dedicated to the McGuffey legacy. Our membership has expressed concern that the McGuffey name was going to be lost during this reconfiguration.”

Earlier this year, the district announced a reconfiguration of buildings, which will be implemented next school year. Kirkmere Elementary will close and students from Kirkmere, and Volney Rogers will be merged into the building that houses Chaney Middle School. That is the building that will be called Volney Rogers Elementary at McGuffey Campus. Chaney Middle School students will be relocated to the building housing Volney because it originally was constructed to be a middle school.

Batchelor said the district is trying to keep things simple while honoring McGuffey and the success of Volney Rogers. He said the board was polled and agreed to the proposed name, which allows the district to avoid any risk of altering its state identification number, known as an IRN or Information Retrieval Number.

“That’s how they track progress and data. Everything we do in the state system is tied to that number,” Batchelor said. “I hear what he’s saying, but that’s just not what we decided as a board and administration. We wanted to honor both legacies and make sure that the work being done at Volney did not get lost. That is one of the buildings that has gotten out of the bottom 5% in the state.”

At a Thursday gala for faculty and staff, Volney Rogers Principal Kelly Weeks was named “Principal of the Year.” Batchelor said that Weeks, who has been at the school for about six years, has made “tremendous strides with that staff and community there.”

“We have to honor the present work and the future work we’re trying to do,” he said.

Have an interesting story? Contact Dan Pompili by email at dpompili@vindy.com.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today