In-Depth with Justin Jennings: Youngstown superintendent discusses open lines of communication


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – School leaders are looking forward to the new school year in Youngstown. So, what’s on tap for Superintendent Justin Jennings, the staff and students?

“Well, we have a lot of transition with transitioning back to the superintendency, so our focus is really going to be on teaching and learning. So we kind of have three elements like earth, wind and fire. So we have a person who’s going to be in charge of our operations, so that’s our day-to-day facilities and buildings,” Jennings said. “Then we have a person who’s going to be in charge of our teaching and learning, and then myself, I’ve taken the role of all three, but also really focus on our leadership. So that’s really what we want to do and be able to welcome our kids to school and make them feel welcome with, you know, ending last year with the violence in Texas and all over.”

Jennings says they want their students to feel safe and be safe in the school environment.

“That’s a message that we have to get out, and I’m knocking on wood. But the likelihood of something, the school shooting at an urban school, is not likely. But people don’t talk about that because you associate the city and then you associate that with violence and people take it as our students. But it’s not often happening,” Jennings said. “We want our students to feel safe not only with that, but feel safe to be themselves coming in school, asking questions and doing different things like that. Safety is not just guns and violence, this is a lot more than that.”

It’s also a mental attitude with open lines of communication. So if a student is feeling threatened, they feel comfortable in talking to the staff or if the staff observed a student who’s exhibiting something unusual within the classroom or with their peers, there is a line of communication for reporting that.

“Absolutely, and what we’ve tried to do in our system is trying to connect our students with some adult in the building, whether it’s a custodian, whether it’s a cafeteria worker or principal, but making sure that they have a safe place where they can go is working pretty good. The best way to curb violence in the school is to build relationships with our students,” Jennings said. “So that’s something we really have to do, is focus on making sure that we build those relationships with our scholars.”

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