Streetsboro citizens rally to support shutdown radio station

Jackie Valley

Supporters of WSTB-FM (88.9), Streetsboro High School’s radio station, urged community members and students to remain calm as they fight the district’s decision to temporarily shut down the station.

The rally at Streetsboro City Park last night came after an information technology employee found pictures school officials deemed “disturbing,” said Bill Germani, former operations manager at WSTB. The school district took the station off the air Monday night.

“We cannot afford to ruin the name of the station and the students any more than the district already has,” Germani said, advising about 50 students, parents and community members not to protest or organize walkouts.

Germani said the pictures stem from a New Year’s Eve celebration this year in Columbus, in which a former student is photographed in the presence of alcohol. The other picture does not contain any alcohol.

Bob Long, general manager of WSTB, said the 18-year-old student photographed, who had parental consent to be in Columbus, never consumed alcohol that night because he was still on medication following a serious ATV accident in October 2007.

Germani said a Streetsboro City Police investigation into the matter determined no criminal activity had occurred.

Long, who did not attend the rally, said he met with Streetsboro Superintendent Linda Keller and Board of Education President Kevin Grimm along with his union representative yesterday to discuss the situation. Long also teaches communications-related elective classes at the high school.

Long told the school officials he intends to resign as general manager of the station if the district does not allow the two network technologists to return.

The district banned one technologist from school grounds because of his presence in the pictures, and the status of the other technologist still remains unclear, Long said.

“I need these two guys to help me run the station,” he said. “One guy built the station and the other guy has been there five years.”

Long said the board president will consult with legal counsel before making a decision. So far, the district has not said when the station can return broadcasting.

If the student had been drinking, Long said he would view the situation differently. But he does not agree with the district’s decision to label “alcohol in the room” a crime.

“I think that punishment is harsh,” he said. “Basically, we come down to an ethical disagreement.”

School officials could not be reached for comment.

Bill Weisinger, volunteer program director at WSTB, said the more than 30-year-old station housed in the high school reaches about 35,000 listeners across six counties in Northeast Ohio. Students help staff the radio station, which is entirely listener-supported and commercial-free but licensed through the school district.

“It’s really much ado about nothing,” he said. “They (administrators) took a sledgehammer to kill a fly that didn’t exist.”

The Streetsboro superintendent, high school principal and assistant principal are all new to the district this year.

For junior Therese Rowland, the district’s decision surprised her, given the station’s long, positive history.

“It’s kind of depressing,” said Rowland, who is an on-air disc jockey. “I’ve been working to get on this staff since I was in fourth grade.”

Contact public affairs reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].