Blind ambitionWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org
On Nov. 2, many people believed Issue 5, a permanent 7.8-mill levy for Toledo Public Schools (TPS), addressed the most important issue facing our community: the need to drastically improve the quality of education in our school system. Among the community leaders asking for the steep “Hail Mary” levy were TPS Superintendent Jerome Pecko, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, United Way President and CEO Bill Kitson and TPS Board of Education President Bob Vasquez.
On Nov. 3, a half-day after the levy was soundly defeated, Pecko, Bell and Kitson were answering media questions about the next steps and the future of the school system.
Vasquez, apparently, was job hunting.
Vasquez was seen visiting Toledo City Council President Wilma Brown’s office that morning, and although he has publicly denied it, word spread that some of the conversation was about his interest in leaving his TPS post for the at-large council seat soon to be vacated by Lucas County Commissioner-elect George Sarantou.
(Nov. 12 EDIT: Wilma Brown called Toledo Free Press on Nov. 12 to say that Vasquez did not bring up the topic of the open council seat during their Nov. 3 meeting.)
While Vasquez denied he talked to anyone on council about the position, he confirmed to Toledo Free Press on Nov. 4 that “If a position was offered to me, I’d consider it.”
Some have said Vasquez declined to confirm that this week, but by the time they said that, the trial balloon was already launched, popped and laying in pieces on the ground.
I personally like and respect Vasquez for his years of service under difficult conditions. There is no question Vasquez has the right to seek political advancement, and I have no quarrel about his experience — he is as qualified as many of the other names being bandied about.
But his hasty willingness to leave TPS in its darkest hour is disappointing and undermines his credibility. Whether Vasquez intended his trial balloon to go public is beside the point.
Just when TPS leadership most needs to stand united and work to salvage the future of the system, its most prominent board member has shown that maybe his heart isn’t really in the battle.
It is a horrible message to send; even those who did not support Issue 5 understand that TPS desperately needs strong and dedicated leadership, and Vasquez is, at least temporarily, compromised.
Vasquez also did himself no favors when he said if he was appointed to council, his TPS colleagues would be able to successfully continue without him.
“My colleagues have the expertise and skills to carry on the business of the board. I have a lot of confidence in them that they can do that,” he said.
Those words are likely to haunt Vasquez every time someone on the board disagrees with him.
Can Vasquez still stand shoulder to shoulder with Bell, Pecko, Kitson and other community leaders who are working to salvage TPS? Yes, with some above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty action.
And an increased measure of discretion when it comes to climbing the political ladder.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com.