YOUNGSTOWN Name school for architect, panel says
Architect P. Ross Berry moved to Youngstown in 1861 to build a school.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The city schools' business committee will recommend to the full board of education Tuesday that a new high school on the East Side be named after Youngstown architect P. Ross Berry.
The idea came from a group organized by the Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II, and it has been opposed by alumni of the former East High School, who want the new school to bear the former school's name, Golden Bear mascot and blue-and-gold colors.
"This is not going to be just an East Side school," said board member Terry O'Connor-Brown, who chairs the business committee. "It's open to students from all of Youngstown. We don't have those divisions anymore."
Other committee members are board member Clarence Boles and board vice president Gerri Sullivan.
Construction of the $26.9 million high school at Parker Street and Bennington Avenue is slated to begin this fall, and opening is planned for fall 2005. The new school is part of the district's $182.5 million facilities project in which 80 percent is funded by the state and 20 percent comes from a local 4.4-mill property tax issue.
East High School, which opened in 1926, closed in 1998 for financial reasons and was converted to the East Middle School. The building will be razed as part of the district's facilities project. O'Connor-Brown said middle schools in the city still retain a sense of being neighborhood facilities, and she recommends retaining the East Middle School name when it is rebuilt.
She also pointed out that the committee makes only a recommendation and the full board must consider the matter. The board will discuss the new school Tuesday, when it meets for a 6 p.m. caucus and a 7 p.m. regular meeting at the Irene L. Ward building at 20 W. Wood St. Supporters of both names are expected to attend.
Support and opposition
Some who attended East High School feel the P. Ross Berry name would destroy a tradition on the East Side that is rich with cultural diversity. East High School stood for a melting pot where people of all walks of life could be found, said John H. Jemison, chairman of the East High School Alumni Association.
"We have history vs. a new era," Jemison said. "The history of East High School would be one of the original milestones of Youngstown history. So why destroy Youngstown history? ... It can live on."
Herman "Pete" Starks, a former city councilman and East High alumnus, said he had suggested that the new middle school be given the Berry name, and the new high school be East High School. He was frustrated to hear that the committee had taken the opposite approach.
The Rev. Mr. Macklin, who is an East Side resident and pastor of the Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, said he has been more resolved to promote the Berry name since he first discussed it in July.
"It's an opportunity to name a building after an individual who was the builder of communities, the builder of people, the builder of structures and the builder of lives," Mr. Macklin said. "Very seldom do we acknowledge and honor those from inside Youngstown."
History and future
Berry was a brick mason and architect who designed many of Youngstown's buildings in the 19th century, including the original Rayen School (now home to board of education offices), Tod Mansion on Fifth Avenue, the Mahoning County Courthouse, the National City Bank Building and First Presbyterian Church.
He was born in Lawrence County, Pa., in 1835 and moved to Youngstown in 1861 to begin construction of The Rayen School. He died in 1917 after working 40 years in the city.
Mr. Macklin, who graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School, said he would like to work with the East High group to see if there is an opportunity to talk and work together toward a common ground.
"We're going back and celebrating our genesis," he said. "Also, it [the Berry name] bodes well for the tenacity, the veracity of our community. We've been survivors. We've been victors. He shows that you can come into our community, get an education and become a strong vital citizen."
Jemison, and other East High alumni, are certain to explain that they do not oppose Berry or the work he did in Youngstown. They think it would be fitting to name another project after him or an auditorium, gymnasium or library.
Debra B. Jones, secretary of the EHS Alumni Association, said she fears the group will lose the commitment of many alumni who have pledged money to fund a new scholarship program for graduates of the new East High School. If it's not called East High, she said, she expects to lose support for the program.
Thousands of alumni showed up at an alumni picnic in August, and Jones said they support the East High School name.
"It's a major problem for us, especially in light of the recent picnic we had and the resurgence in the school spirit," said Jaladah Aslam, co-chair of the East High School Alumni Association. "Mr. Berry is not even [a native] from the Mahoning Valley. I don't know why there's such a push to name it after someone who's not from the Mahoning Valley or the East Side."