State officials in awe of Fitch's Purple Star Room

Staff report


“There’s nothing like this in the state,” said Chip Merkle.

Merkle and Pete LuPiba, members of the Ohio Department of Education’s Purple Star Advisory Board, which supports military friendly schools and recognizes their efforts for military-connected families, were in awe Wednesday at Fitch High School’s Purple Star Room – a dedicated room for military-related events and a place for students in military families to video conference with deployed family members.

Merkle and LuPiba sought feedback on the future of the ODE Purple Star Award – which Fitch received in May – from area veterans, district administrators and Austintown students from military families.

Of the 142 Purple Star schools in Ohio, Fitch is the only one with a dedicated space for military-connected students, LuPiba said.

“It’s kind of an honor that they even want our input,” said district spokeswoman Brittany Bueno.

Fitch teacher Kristen O’Neill, who coordinated the school’s student-led veterans committee and whose Vietnam veteran father, Sgt. James Prommersberger, is memorialized at the school, said she hopes for new professional development dedicated toward military families and their school-age students, many of whom transfer to schools across the country as they follow their parents’ deployments and have faced issues with interstate compatibility of their school transcripts and testing standards.

“I know what my friends and my colleagues say – they don’t know, they don’t understand about Purple Star kids,” she said.

“They don’t know how many times they move; they don’t know about their transcripts.”

She also suggested more social events to draw students from military families together.

Merkle suggested imploring the county Educational Service Center to prioritize identifying those students.

“It would be a great opportunity to take a couple of them … and let them talk and explain to them how important it is to be able to identify these kids,” he said. “So they can understand the needs and the challenges they have.”