Following a 76-minute executive session March 27, the Toledo Public Schools (TPS) Board of Education (BOE) quickly informed the public that it intended to interview three of the five candidates for TPS’ interim superintendent position.
Brenda Hill, BOE president, said the board intends to interview Dr. Romules Durant, TPS’ assistant superintendent of the Bowsher, Scott and Waite Learning Communities; Douglas Heuer, superintendent of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District; and Dr. Michael Zalar, superintendent of the Oregon City School District.
The BOE left executive session at 6:17 p.m., and within 92 seconds, it had voted on two motions and closed the meeting. Hill made a motion to interview three candidates, but before she had named Durant, Heuer and Zalar as those three candidates, a different BOE member seconded and a third member called for a vote on Hill’s unfinished motion. After the 5-0 was recorded by Treasurer Matt Cleland, Hill began a motion to close the meeting. Before Hill finished her second motion, two other board members seconded and called for a vote on the unfinished motion.
Hill would not say whether board members took a vote in executive session.
“My legal counsel has told me that I am not required to talk about anything that happens in executive session,” she said.
Keith Wilkowski, TPS’ legal counsel, dismissed the suggestion that the speed with which the board conducted public business was either illegal or inappropriate.
Wilkowski, who did not attend the meeting, said “From what you say happened, they did everything in line with the public meetings law.”
Wilkowski said board members “may or may not discuss” the opinions they express in executive session, and BOE members are not “legally required to express their opinions about any of the candidates. They have to take actions in public, and they did that. They acted completely appropriately in terms of the Open Meetings Law (Ohio Revised Code 121.22(H)).”
Prior to the board meeting, Hill did say she considered test scores and a candidate’s communication skills as her top priorities.
“No. 1, we need to have our scores go up,” Hill said. “And I would personally like to have someone who has confidence, and people have confidence in them and their abilities. I want someone who is definitely child-centered and achievement-centered, someone who is very easily communicated with and is approachable so that our citizens aren’t afraid of them or standoffish.”
Hill said she wants an interim superintendent who can “really talk” to Toledo’s citizens, children, teachers, staff, businesses and government officials. “Now, governments are interconnected, especially the way the economy is. We have to have good communication with all of them.”
Hill said she would like the board to interview the three candidates in the first week of April “so that we can make the decision as quickly as possible.” She said the board would also need to discuss when the interim superintendent’s contract would begin.
Outgoing Superintendent Jerome Pecko’s contract ends July 31.
“Possibly, they could start earlier and maybe get mentored,” Hill said. “We have to discuss it. It would be hard just to come and just step in, like he leaves today and you step in tomorrow. You don’t even know where the paper clips are. It would be good to have a transition time so that the transition would be smooth.”
At its March 26 monthly business meeting, the TPS BOE:
- voted 5-0 to increase the amount spent on the Arlington Elementary renovation project from “not to exceed $1.5 million to not to exceed $1.8 million” to allow for the addition of six instead of four classrooms and related storage space. Discussion leading to the unanimous vote focused on how Arlington Elementary, which was not designed to accommodate the seventh and eighth-grade students who now attend the school, lacks adequate art, computer lab, science laboratory and related storage space. Cecelia Adams, BOE vice president, was adamant that “there needs to be space so teachers can do real science, real laboratory experiments.” Hill suggested the BOE may need to put a levy on the ballot to add science labs and the related space to K-8 schools originally designed for K-6 grade students.
- The board also voted 5-0 to adopt BOE member Lisa Sobecki’s walk-in resolution to increase the number of classrooms in the Whittier Elementary renovation project from eight to 10 for the same $3.5 million price tag. When BOE member Larry Sykes questioned Sobecki as to how the district could add two rooms at no additional costs, James Gant, chief business manager, told the board that the Design/Build process, which replaces the long-standing Bid/Build process, “gives the district more flexibility. There will be no change in orders unless we decide to make the changes.”