Following a successful inaugural season, Feed Lucas County Children (FLCC) will host another free camp for kids this summer.
The free camp will run from June 17 through the end of July, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at Knight Academy, 110 Arco Drive in Toledo. it is intended for children in grades one through six.
Last year, FLCC, which provides healthy meals to hungry children, hosted the summer camp for the first time. The camp was the brainchild of Khalfani Rice, an AmeriCorps VISTA worker at the time, and was executed with the help of FLCC Executive Director Tony Siebeneck.
The goal to provide a free camp experience for 600 area children. It seemed lofty at the time, but according to Siebeneck, it was met much sooner than expected.
“Within the first five days, we had 403 kids signed up,” he said. “A lot of camps around the county try to go for 60-80 on the average, and everybody kept talking about what the kids are going to do in the summer, so we aimed for 400-600, but when the first 400 hit, we said, ‘This might be enough!’”
Despite the unexpectedly high surge in attendance, Siebeneck proudly reported that no one was turned away. The numbers also impressed many others in the community and beyond.
“We were averaging around 340 every day,” Siebeneck said. “The people at the governor’s office were really impressed. They couldn’t believe we did that.”
Siebeneck explained that activities were often a mix of educational and physical exercises. He added that games like Red Rover helped accommodate large numbers of children who wanted to burn off their summer energy.
“We wore them out. We had them involved in so many activities,” Siebeneck said.
The kids also played soccer, one of many exercises aimed toward teaching the value of team building, which was one of the focal points of the camp.
Camp activities also concentrated on eating healthy foods. Campers worked in the gardens at the academy and learned about the benefits of a healthy diet.
“Many kids don’t get the chance to eat healthy foods,” Siebeneck said. “We threw them a lot of different types of ‘weird stuff,’ as the kids would say, that people should be eating.”
Siebeneck, a 2013 Jefferson Award recipient, explained his belief in responding to misbehavior with positive response, rather than punishment.
“We believe in the power of positive thinking, and positive reactions. So if we had a kid that was being disruptive we would put them in a leadership role, as an assistant. Subconsciously, he can’t act out, because he’s a leader. He has a title — he’s an assistant. We’re building self-esteem.”
Rice, now a district executive for the Cub Scouts, agreed that the camp was a success, and was extremely happy with the turnout.
“I honestly was completely amazed,” he said. “It was great to see that my efforts would impact some child’s life in a positive way.”
Rice added that the experience of attending summer camp leaves an indelible mark on the mind of a child.
This year’s format will be largely the same for the camp, with several additions. One of the new highlights will be a study of Chinese food, games and culture.
“We have one week where we have a group from China coming in, high school students, about 25 of them, and we’re going to have Chinese week,” Siebeneck said.
Siebeneck and FLCC are part of the Free From Hunger 2013 initiative, fronted by Columbia Gas of Ohio, Toledo Free Press, WNWO-TV and Moms on the Go and supported by Hollywood Casino Toledo, Wells Fargo Advisors and 1370 WSPD.
FLCC helps provide food to families who are struggling to feed their children. Siebeneck anticipates a busy summer and said FLCC will serve meals every day. He emphasized that assistance from members of the community is critical.
“We’re looking for those adults that have that one particular talent or skill, who may want to come in one day and do a special project. Our doors are wide open. There are a lot of areas that we could use help with.”
When asked what his greatest need is right now, Siebeneck replied that industrial kitchen equipment donations would go a long way toward fighting hunger.
“If I could get more cooking equipment, I could feed more kids. One piece of cooking equipment will give back for the next 10-15 years. That is one heck of a return on a donation.”
For more information on FLCC, visit www.feedlucaschildren.org.
Archive for April, 2013
Following a successful inaugural season, Feed Lucas County Children (FLCC) will host another free camp for kids this summer.
Although many areas of the country, including Northwest Ohio, have made progress on improving air quality over the past few years, Lucas County still earned a grade of D for ozone pollution in The American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report.
The report was released April 24 and used data compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency from 2009-2011.
The Toledo-Fremont area was tied for the 80th most polluted air in the nation, a ranking worse than last year when Toledo-Fremont was ranked 83rd, according to a news release about the report.
However, Toledo’s ranking fell only because other cities in the country improved more, not because Toledo’s air quality got worse, said Shelly Kiser, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio.
“Other cities across the country made improvements faster, but you did better than most cities in Ohio, so I guess it’s a mixed bag,” Kiser said.
Cincinnati had the worst ozone quality in Ohio, coming in at 14th most polluted in the nation. Cleveland was tied for 35th and Columbus tied for 54th, Kiser said.
“Toledo didn’t do too bad this year compared to other Ohio cities,” Kiser said. “The ozone didn’t get any better, but it didn’t get any worse and that’s actually better than other cities in Ohio can say. A lot of cities in Ohio saw it get worse and you maintained.”
Toledo-Fremont’s ranking for annual particle pollution was 58th in the nation, worse than last year when the area was ranked 61st. Several Ohio cities were among the nation’s 25 worst for year-round particle pollution, including Cincinnati at No. 10, Canton-Massillon at No. 14, Cleveland-Akron-Elyria at No. 20 and Dayton at No. 24.
For short-term particle pollution, the Toledo-Fremont area tied for 79th most polluted in the country, receiving a grade of C, an improved ranking from 73rd in the 2012 report, according to the release.
The top five worst cities in all categories of pollution were in California.
“The air in the Toledo area is certainly cleaner than when we started the ‘State of the Air’ report 14 years ago,” Kiser stated in the release. “But the work is not done, and we must set stronger health standards for pollutants and clean up sources of pollution in the Toledo area to protect the health of our citizens.”
Inhaling air pollution, or smog, irritates the lungs and can cause immediate and future health problems, including wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and premature death. Wood County earned a B for ozone pollution.
Despite improvements, nearly 132 million people in the U.S. still live in counties that have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution, which is more than four in 10 people (42 percent), according to the report
For more information, visit the website www.stateoftheair.org.
This past week has been extraordinary in a variety of ways. The bombing in Boston dominated the news and ended with the death of one of the suspects and the capture of the other. I believe justice will eventually prevail but not without some frustrating twists and turns.
One of the big economic stories last week was the movement in the price of gold and silver. Similar to the Boston bombing, there is talk of conspiracy and manipulation in the movement of gold prices. I see these as possible, but maybe not probable. Either way it will be debated for a long time.
On April 12 at the open of the market here in the U.S. an order was placed selling 3.4 million ounces of gold for June delivery , which brought gold to $1,540 per ounce. That alone is a big order but just a couple of hours later another order hit to the tune of 10 million ounces for June delivery. These two orders combined are the equivalent of 15 percent of the world’s production for the year.
As these orders get processed, a tremendous amount of downward pressure is put on the price of the underlying asset. That, in turn, causes stop limits to hit and margin calls to be placed, further pressuring the price down. If you had sold gold short prior to the orders you would have made a considerable amount of money on the trade. This is where the thoughts of manipulation come in, because there are only a few entities big enough to initiate transactions of this size.
We know who these entities are and we know they were involved with the trades, but trying to prove the coordinated manipulation between them is difficult. All we can do is look at the overall actions and try to determine the motivation and connect our own dots as to who and why. Once again, like the investigation that is going on in Boston, we want to know if they were part of a larger group, if it was all planned and paid for by a foreign entity or a domestic entity, and if there are more plans like this on the drawing board.
Back to gold — gold is generally what we call a Giffen good. A Giffen good is one that actually sees a spike in demand as its price rises. Conversely, demand usually drops along with the price. While this concept is widely known among economists, there are relatively few examples in the real world outside of commodity markets. Gold is the exception. In the past, as the price of gold dropped it was scorned and dishoarded by individuals as well as by central banks.
What is more important is the ratio of gold’s stock to its flow. This, very simply, is how much gold is actually on the market to change hands. Someone, or an entity of some type, owns virtually all the gold in the world. What if they just simply decided not to sell any more for a while? This would cause what we call a shortage, not necessarily of the metal but of the availability of the metal.
If this situation were applied to automobiles, meaning a manufacturer of cars made the cars but decided not to sell any, this would eventually cause a shortage of cars. However, the manufacturer would have to sell some of the cars for cash or the cars would be worth nothing to him. Gold is not that way. With gold, the holder need not exchange his gold for dollars, especially if there are ever-increasing dollars pursuing the metal.
What am I trying to say? Buy things that hold their value over time, especially when they are cheaper now than they have been in a while. In the first half of April the U.S. Mint has sold more gold than the previous two months combined and we still have a week left in the month. Take the hint.
Gary L. Rathbun is the president and CEO of Private Wealth Consultants, LTD. He can be heard every day on 1370 WSPD at 4:06 p.m. on “After the Bell,” every day on the Afternoon Drive, and every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening at 6 throughout Northern Ohio on “Eye on Your Money.” He can be reached at (419) 842-0334 or email him at email@example.com.
A new source for microlending will arrive in Northwest Ohio when the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) opens an office in Toledo on May 1.
Based in Columbus, ECDI operates offices in Cleveland and now Toledo to assist small businesses with microenterprise loans in those communities. The Toledo ECDI office will be located in suite 202 at One Maritime Plaza in Downtown Toledo.
“Our goal is to create access to small business capital and provide tools for asset building to create jobs and invigorate our neighborhoods,” said Anneliese Grytafey, manager of EDCI’s Toledo office.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a microenterprise as any business with five or fewer employees, with initial capitalization requirements of approximately $35,000. The ECDI makes loans of up to $150,000 to small businesses that may not qualify for funding from banks and traditional sources.
Inna Kinney founded ECDI in 2004 as a nonprofit economic development organization in Columbus to invest in people to create measurable social and economic change. Kinney serves as CEO of the organization.
ECDI acts as an SBA microloan intermediary and is the seventh largest SBA microlender in the nation and a U.S. Treasury-designated Community Development Financial Institution.
Grytafey gained expertise in microfinancing while studying national best practices with the Toledo office of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE). She developed a program at ABLE to provide legal advice to entrepreneurs.
As an attorney, Grytafey believes her legal background will be helpful in the ECDI operation although she will not be allowed to provide legal advice to its clients. However, ECDI will partner with ABLE to help its clients obtain funding for their small businesses.
Grytafey most recently served as director of strategic initiatives with the Regional Growth Partnership in conjunction with JobsOhio, where she worked toward making Toledo more competitive for federal funding and grants.
Banks are usually one of the largest referral partners for microlending, sending potential borrowers who may not qualify for conventional loans to sources such as ECDI, according to Grytafey. She plans to develop partnerships with local lenders to help expedite that process.
ECDI will provide small business loans to for-profit companies, helping those clients with cash flow, marketing and training as well as technical assistance throughout the life of the loan. Those loans may be used for business expenses such as working capital, startup operating costs and purchase of equipment, inventory and supplies, but not for real estate acquisition or construction.
Grytafey said they will create partnerships with ECDI’s borrowers to provide training through local sources such as Assets Toledo and the Small Business Development Center.
ECDI’s clients could include small home-based businesses, contractors, entrepreneurs, family-owned enterprises and even young people who may want to start a business. Grytafey said she already has received some inquiries from local businesses interested in learning more about the program.
“Microlending is happening all over the U.S. We just didn’t have a dedicated program in Toledo,” said Grytafey, who became involved in a collaboration of efforts to bring microfinancing to Toledo.
Grytafey reported that she and representatives of the Northwest Ohio Development Agency, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, United North and United Way visited ECDI in Columbus in January 2012. ECDI leadership came to Toledo that April for a community forum on microfinancing.
A pre-feasibility study was commissioned by the Toledo Community Development Corporation (CDC) Alliance and funded by a grant from the Ohio CDC Association. In a debriefing session after the study, Jason Friedman of Friedman Associates, one of the nation’s top sources of expertise on domestic microfinance, suggested that the local committee connect with ECDI.
An analysis conducted by Friedman’s firm showed a $15 million funding gap that could be filled by microcredit loan products in the Toledo/Lucas County market. That study was commissioned by ABLE and funded by a grant obtained through the Port Authority.
ECDI programs and services, supported by more than $40 million in federal, state, local and private funds, have proven to create jobs, increase access to assets and spur local economic development, according to ECDI’s website.
For more information, visit www.ecdi.org.
In an attempt to give students and parents input in the decision-making process of menu planning as well as increase student use of Toledo Public Schools’ (TPS) food services, the district will host “tastings” at 10 schools the weeks of May 6-10 and 13-17.
James Gant, chief business manager, explained the purpose and structure of the planned tastings and sought input from members of the Food Service Ad Hoc Committee on April 18.
Tastings will be 30-minute events at seven elementary and three high schools. Students and parents who participate will taste five to eight food items the district is considering adding to next year’s lunch menus, said Reynald Debroas, director of TPS Department of Food Services.
Each tasting will be the same, Debroas said. Participants at all the elementary schools will taste the same food items. Participants at each high school will taste the same food items although those items will differ from those tasted at the elementary schools.
Participants will vote on each item they taste. If Debroas places six food items on the tasting menu with the intention of adding three items to next year’s district menu, the top three vote-getting items will win, said Patty Mazur, TPS communications director.
The tastings will cost TPS nothing, Mazur said. The event will be vendor-financed, and Mazur said the district expects that five to eight potential vendors will participate.
The idea for this year’s tasting events grew out of one tasting at DeVeaux Elementary School last year at which DeVeaux and Whittier Elementary School students and parents tasted and voted on food items for this year’s breakfast menu, Mazur said.
The seven elementary school tastings will take place:
- May 6 — Larchmont, 1515 Slater St., 43612
- May 7 — Beverly, 3548 S. Detroit Ave., 43614
- May 8 — Garfield, 1103 Ravine Pkwy., 43605
- May 9 — Hawkins, 5550 W. Bancroft St., 43615
- May 10 — Navarre, 800 Kingston Ave., 43605
- May 13 — Elmhurst, 4530 Elmhurst Drive, 43613
- May 14 — Whittier, 4221 Walker Ave., 43612
The three high schools tastings will take place:
- May 15 — Bowsher, 2200 Arlington Ave., 43614
- May 16 — Start, 2010 Tremainsville Road, 43613
- May 17 — Woodward, 701 E. Central Ave., 43608
In other business, Gant informed committee members that TPS Board of Education (BOE) member Larry Sykes accepted the 2012 School Breakfast Program of the Year Award from Children’s Hunger Alliance (CHA) on Feb. 18. TPS was honored as Ohio’s top school district for its partnership with CHA, Action for Healthy Kids and the American Dairy Association Mideast in sponsoring its first school breakfast program.
CHA reported that in September the district began offering hot breakfasts at least three days a week in all K-8 school buildings as well as adding additional fresh fruits and whole grains to the breakfast menus. In that same month, CHA reported that more than 8,500 children in the district ate breakfast at school as compared to 4,790 six months earlier, and that about 40 percent of all K-8 students eat breakfast on average each day in TPS.
The breakfast program is financed with federal funds, Gant said, and because of low food and labor costs, the district makes about 25 cents per meal served.
Sykes said he is a strong supporter of the breakfast program because of the strong correlation he sees between feeding students and improved student performance.
Sykes, who attended the National School Board Association conference in San Diego from April 12-15, said he listened to a compelling presentation made by the San Diego Unified District.
“They spoke about their food program and what it did,” Sykes said. “Attendance went up. Performance increased and discipline [problems]decreased.
“You can get that from the Columbus City Schools district, too. They did the same thing, and they found that when they give kids a hot breakfast, attendance and academic performance improves and discipline [referrals and incidents] go down.”
The committee also discussed strategies on how TPS can continue to become fiscally sound.
In 2012, food services received a $700,000 subsidy from TPS general fund, down from $2.8 million in 2004.
Citing high food and labor costs, Gant reported TPS loses approximately 17 cents for every elementary school lunch and 58 cents for every high school lunch it serves.
In 2012, TPS was reimbursed $2.94 per meal for each free or reduced lunch it served. Gant said that although about 78 percent of students would qualify for a free or reduced lunch, TPS serves only about 40 percent of those students. Gant said that if TPS developed an aggressive strategy in enrolling students in the free and reduced lunch program, food services could stop losing money and actually turn a profit.
Although Debroas said it had been TPS practice not to serve alternative meals for at least the past 12 years, Gant said he is inclined to pursue that option next year.
An alternative meal is a nutritionally sound but less expensive meal districts are permitted to serve to students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunches but cannot or do not pay for the hot meal prepared for the student body, Gant said.
Jean Ford, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 840 president, said when she began working for TPS in 1983, an alternative meal was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, fruit cup, large juice, milk and vegetable. Ford said districts no longer serve that meal because more children are allergic to peanut butter now.
“Now, an alternative meal would probably be a cheese sandwich, milk, juice and a fruit or vegetable,” Ford said. “It wouldn’t be the specific hot meal that we serve the children.
“Like today was taco meat with refried beans, Doritos, orange juice and milk. They would not get that. An alternative meal would not be all of that. I have to guess, though, because they haven’t told us.
“However, right now, we are not doing an alternative meal. None of us want any child to go hungry. We are just having them charge meals.”
Charging meals has created a fiscal dilemma, Gant said.
Ford said some students have “charged a substantial amount of money for their hot meal lunches. Their parents don’t want to fill out the free and reduced lunch application but they still want the students to eat. And we know some of them have the money but they won’t pay the charges off.
“And if you went through all the charges … Oh, my gosh. Going back to even just last year, it’s a few thousand dollars.”
Gant said that TPS needs to strictly adhere to its programs, policies and procedures.
“We have a program in place,” Gant said. “Fill out an application. If not, we will provide a nutritional meal, but not the meal that students whose parents fill out the application receive.”
BOE President Brenda Hill said one problem is that parents know the district won’t let their children starve.
Sykes said some of the problem lies in poor parenting.
“Some of our parents are irresponsible,” Sykes said. “The kids are raising themselves and we know that.”
However, Gant said TPS cannot ignore its own policies.
“We need to get parents to at least try to fill out the application,” Gant said. “However, we will always work on the principle that we are not to turn away any kid in need of food.”
Gant’s discussion of the Food Service Ad Hoc Committee’s decision to put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to investigate whether the management and/or operations of food services could be better served by an outside firm drew immediate concern from David Blyth, AFSCME representative.
“What the Ad Hoc Committee wanted to look at were different options to see if there is anything we can be doing better as a district,” Gant said. “The concern, obviously, from the union’s perspective is that once you put those things out, although you will get back some suggestions, they may also suggest that the district actually farm out the whole operation and take over the employment of it.
“It’s been clear from our perspective — and one of the things that I said when we put this out — that there would be no change at all in employment arrangements with the district. That was my point.
“The other point I wanted to make is that when we analyze whether we should be doing it or not, a lot of things that Dave [Blyth] said needed to be considered. We’ll go though it thoroughly.
“We’re not going to automatically decide to use a management firm to run food services. When we went through this same process for the Print Services analysis, we came to the conclusion it was best that we continue to operate our print shop versus having it farmed out.”
Blyth said that although he understands Gant’s position, he does not think it was productive for TPS to put out an RFP.
“I don’t agree to that because what happens is, once you let a company like that in, they’re going to say, ‘Gee, part of the problem here is the pay that you’re offering employees,’ ” Blyth said. “What we want to do is hire the employees as older ones resign or retire.
“I just don’t think the school system should be a place where businesses should be making a profit off what should be a nonprofit activity, meaning our children.
“And I’m also fearful about getting a private concern managing food services. I have a feeling that we’re now giving up an important decision-making process. We’re giving up a function, if you will, of the school system to outsiders who are driven by the profit motive.”
Blyth said AFSCME’s apprehension with the direction of the Food Service Ad Hoc Committee stems from the possibility that its decisions may lead to an increase in student lunch prices.
“The biggest concern I have is that we somehow end up with a private concern coming in, and then the end result of that will be that the price of food will go up,” Blyth said. “We already know that we’re basically charging under market, based on what we saw from Cincinnati and the other school districts.
“I think there is a legitimate reason to raise our food charges, but I don’t think we need to get into a situation where they’re raised so a company can make a profit.
“I also think children value and do better when there’s a stable workforce in the schools and they’re seeing the same people day in and day out. I think it’s important to them. And I think if you go to a situation where you use a company that, frankly, is going to be paying minimum wage or a little above, you’re going to see an endless succession of employees. You’re going to see turnover far, far more than you do now because at that kind of money, people are going to work until they can find something better and then move on.
“And many of the food ladies have been there forever. Jean Ford, the union president, has been a food service worker for 30 years. She has a wealth of knowledge. She knows how to work around kids. The kids know her. And I think they’re better served having that stable and consistent face like Jean’s that they see every day.”
‘Including the kitchen sink’
Blyth said he also has serious concerns with what he characterized as a flawed performance audit.
“My main fear is that when people get to the bottom of that document where it says, ‘If you embrace these savings over five years, you’ll save $101 million.’ I’m concerned that people will look at that and say, ‘Oh, that’s where the money comes from. We don’t have to vote for any levies.’
“And the problem with the performance audit is, although there are a lot of good ideas there, they’ve thrown in everything, including the kitchen sink, to get to that number, and some of it just isn’t realistic. From what I’ve heard and seen, they were going by data that was previous to the transformation to K-8 so they’re looking at data and numbers that don’t really match the reality of where we are.
“And some of the stuff … I don’t think it’s going to be politically palatable closing down schools and combining this and that. I don’t think that’s going to work.”
Anger at Ohio legislators was displayed April 23 when Toledo Public School (TPS) Board of Education (BOE) members discussed a resolution they eventually passed 5-0, which urges the state’s elected officials to reject House Bill (HB) 59.
The proposed legislation would permit the state superintendent of public instruction to establish commissions for school districts, including TPS, which the state auditor finds “to have knowingly manipulated student data with evidence to deceive.”
TPS was recently cited in a state audit for improperly “scrubbing” data reported to the state by withdrawing and then re-enrolling truant students.
Board members said they intend to travel to Columbus this weekend, some at their own expense, to lobby legislators to not create Academic Distress Commissions of unelected individuals with unrestricted power to establish school board budgets, contract with private entities to manage school districts, appoint and reassign school building administrators, and terminate administrator contracts.
The resolution, presented by BOE President Brenda Hill, was drafted by Keith Wilkowski, TPS legal counsel.
BOE member Lisa Sobecki said she is vehemently opposed to HB 59 because legislators are proposing to create a law within a substitute bill to HB 59 for situations that are currently covered in the Ohio Revised Code (ORC).
“When legislators put this type of legislation in, I would have hoped that they would have done their homework before to see that there’s already measures within the ORC that calls for these types of things,” she said.
Sobecki said she spoke with Hill on April 19 to suggest that a resolution come before the board April 23.
“We need to send a message down to Columbus,” Sobecki said. “And I anticipate there’s going to be other school board members that I’ve spoken with across the state that are going to do similar things. With all these amendments added to the HB, school boards are really just trying to figure it out. I’m also incensed with the fact that our legislators aren’t even allowing the state auditor’s process to be able to finish before they’re proposing new legislation. It’s an ongoing investigation from the auditor’s office and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).”
Lack of accountability
Sobecki said she is concerned that the proposed legislation does not establish accountability standards or recommendations for the ODE.
“Look at the fact that board members belong to governing bodies and policy bodies,” Sobecki said. “We’re not the ones doing that day-to-day work of inputting information. For example … the reason they wrote this [amendment] is because of the scrubbing issue. And they’ve decided down in Columbus they need to hold us accountable, but we already have accountability measures that we can follow.
“No. 1, the two people we hire and fire are the superintendent and the treasurer, and we hold them accountable for the work underneath them. And the superintendent holds his folks accountable. It’s a chain of command.”
Sobecki said HB 59 is filled with useless language: “I really wished that they had focused more on funding public schools right in the first place versus trying to [create legislation] for things that are already in place.”
Despite the speculation surrounding legislators’ motives, Sobecki said she believes the motivation is purely political.
“The reason you’re going to hear on one side is that school districts should have been accounting for kids properly,” Sobecki said. “But I think it’s more political than getting to the root cause and understanding what was going on through the reporting mechanisms that have been called ‘scrubbing.’ I think it’s more political than looking at what’s right.”
Sobecki said it reflects a power struggle between the Republican and Democratic parties.
“My understanding from friends and colleagues in Columbus is that this is being pushed by the Republicans, and they’ve begun pushing harder now that it’s going through the Senate.
“This is the time that we speak up and board members across the State of Ohio help educate legislators when they take legislative actions.”
Although she is a registered Democrat, Sobecki insists that the BOE works as an elected nonpolitical, nonpartisan governing body.
“We make unpartisan decisions,” Sobecki said. “They’re not Republican decisions. They’re not Democrat decisions. They are decisions which are best for kids.
“But here’s a side note that maybe Republicans can understand. Overwhelmingly across the state, there are more Republican school board members than Democratic school board members. And I’ve spoken to my colleagues across the state who are Republicans, and they’re not in favor of this.”
Sobecki said TPS’ resolution can become a model for other school boards to adopt as they reach out to their legislators.
“I’m going to be sharing it with colleagues across the state and encouraging them to sign on to similar resolutions like this.
“And I do know in talking with our folks at the Ohio School Board Association, the OSBA is not supporting this either.”
The Toledo Public Schools (TPS)Board of Education is between a rock and a hard place. The hard place is a community continually unimpressed with results to date, disappointed with the lack of vision and accountability of a dysfunctional board, and unwilling to invest any more money without major reform.
The rock is the TPS public sector employee unions that have spent the past 35 years pounding and grinding the board in one negotiation and election after another until near-control is achieved.
The just-completed performance audit defines clearly the many challenges that must be negotiated between the board and employee unions. Two chapters of the report demonstrably validate the obstacles. Section 3, regarding instructional delivery, has 20 recommendations of which 14 (or 70 percent) require negotiation. The human resources chapter — section 4 — has 20 recommendations with 50 percent requiring negotiation.
The gauntlet has been thrown and despite initial perceptions, TPS has been presented with an opportunity to change public attitudes, forge a common purpose among labor and management, save and/or deploy more effectively large sums of taxpayer money and create an environment where student success is fostered and expected.
Public trust is critical to meeting TPS’ mission with transparency and action integral to the equation. This is where the board has to depart from previous behavior of secretive, closed-door decisions without any accountability and move to a philosophy where it not only welcomes independent community oversight, but embraces it.
Three elements are critical if the spirit and intent behind a performance audit are to be met: community oversight, board accountability and staff implementation.
An independent oversight committee — let’s call it the Performance Audit Accountability Committee — is going to be hard for the board to implement due to the obvious political implications, but doing so is imperative in seizing this opportunity.
The sole function envisioned for an accountability committee is to monitor implementation of performance audit findings and independently apprise the community of progress and problems. The committee would make no decisions — the board and staff have responsibility for reviewing the findings and implementing solutions.
The board should sanction the committee by official resolution and provide complete access to all records, staff and other resources as deemed necessary by the committee to discharge its duties.
Establishing independent oversight ensures board accountability throughout the process regardless of the composition of the board. This fall, three board members must stand for re-election. Should any move on, a “new” board may not agree with the original intent of the audit. Future boards will have to take a public vote to eliminate accountability and void past promises to Toledo taxpayers.
For oversight to work, only individuals with no conflicts of interest should serve — that means no board members, administrators, employees or any individual with a financial interest. The committee should consist of at least seven individuals of varying backgrounds and must include — let’s repeat that — must include district critics and dissenting voices to add credibility and promote public trust. While the board should appoint committee members, the members should select their own leadership, determine their agenda and be free to design the necessary processes to complete their mission.
In developing an internal implementation process, the board has to be cognizant of audit report findings regarding board micromanagement. The implementation process is a good place to practice good board governance.
Each finding should have a “champion” assigned — someone accountable for the final result. The champion must have the authority and resources to pursue solutions and, after board approval, implementation.
The ideas presented are truncated and, most assuredly, can be improved. There are likely other methods that would accomplish the objectives discussed. But the TPS Board of Education doesn’t appear to want a public discussion about implementation until perhaps it decides what it should be, so these ideas are offered to foster debate.
Steven Flagg is a member of the Urban Coalition. Email him at letters@toledo freepress.com.
KeyBank has earned its eighth consecutive “Outstanding” rating from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) for exceeding the terms of the Community Reinvenstment Act (CRA) exam.
KeyBank is the only U.S. national bank among the 25 largest to be rated Outstanding by the OCC for eight consecutive periods since the act’s passage in 1977.
“We’re honored to have earned an ‘Outstanding’ rating from the OCC for the eighth consecutive time. It’s a testament to the character of our people and our commitment to serving all markets in our footprint,” Beth Mooney, KeyCorp chairman and chief executive officer, stated in a press release announcing the bank’s latest rating.
“We’re especially proud to have provided loans, investments and services throughout the exam period, which was the height of the financial crisis. Being a responsible bank during difficult times matters to the communities that we serve,” Mooney stated.
The Community Reinvestment Act requires banks to meet the credit needs of low- and moderate-income communities across America. The exam rates institutions in three categories: lending, investment, and services.
The OCC’s assessment includes bank practices such as mortgage lending, small business lending, community development lending, investments in community development organizations and projects, bank services to communities, and employee community involvement.
Banks are assigned one of four ratings: “Outstanding,” “Satisfactory,” “Need to Improve” or “Substantial Noncompliance” for the overall rating and the three subcategories The OCC completes a CRA exam for a bank every three to four years, and KeyBank’s recent exam period covered July 1, 2008, through Sept. 30, 2011.
“For us, it’s not enough to simply satisfy compliance requirements. It’s our goal to go beyond compliance to commitment to our communities. We have developed a business model that not only is viable for KeyBank but for the stability and vitality of our communities,” James Hoffman, president of KeyBank’s Michigan/Northwest Ohio district, stated in the press release.
Significant Northwest Ohio community achievements led to KeyBank’s Outstanding rating during the exam period, according to bank officials.
KeyBank extended more than $17 million in loans and more than $51 million in equity to local development projects. KeyBank’s participation in commercial economic development projects stabilize and revitalize neighborhoods and provide affordable housing.
KeyBank financed the construction of more than 10,000 affordable housing units designed for individuals who earn less than 60 percent the average median income in the U.S.
KeyBank’s free tax preparation day, Super Refund Saturday, helped return $480,000 in refunds to low- and moderate-income residents.
KeyBank gave more than $1.6 million to local nonprofits, through the KeyBank Foundation. Five hundred individuals took financial education courses offered by the bank.
KeyBank’s CRA focus is part of its overall commitment to corporate responsibility which includes the bank’s philanthropy, sustainability, volunteerism, and diversity efforts.
With the launch of Sony’s PlayStation Vita, it was an unknown downloadable title that stole the show. Developer and self publisher, Drinkbox Studios, released Mutant Blobs Attack to much critical acclaim and universal praise. The titles lush 2D visuals and addicting simplistic gameplay captured gamers attentions. Now Drinkbox Studios returns with Guacamelee, a 2D platformer that offers wonderful visuals with a well-written story and solid gameplay to make Guacamelee one of the finest downloaded titles this generation.
Juan is an everyday farmer that returns from the afterlife as a superhero wrestler to fight off the demons that have come to cause havoc. If that premise sounds silly that is because it is and Drinkbox Studios pokes fun at the absurdity of the story with great comical dialogue that never tries to take itself seriously. Carrying on the tradition of the stunning 2D artwork from Mutant Blobs Attack, the developers offer a simple art style but with bright booming colors that truly bring a sense of character to the world.
Super Metroid was an obvious inspiration for Guacamelee as the title offers a non-linear approach to exploration and character development. When new abilities are acquired the game encourages the player to go back and access areas previously unattainable. You will need all the abilities you can attain to defeat some of the challenging boss encounters in the game.
Guacamelee’s 2D artwork is beautifully realized on the system’s OLED screen. Sony has really made an effort to make their platforms attractive for indie developers and with games like Guacamelee being created in this new indie-friendly environment, we have many more classic gems to look forward to (****, $14.99, available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, Rated E for Everyone).
+ Beautiful hand drawn animation
+ Exploration is encouraged and rewarded
+ Cross-platform game saves between PS3 and Vita
+ Charming story and characters
Once again we witness another horrible, horrible tragedy. This time it took place at the 2013 Boston Marathon where two brothers set off multiple bombs killing three people and injuring 176 others, many of them severely. Some of those injured lost limbs and others are facing amputations and other injuries that are life changing. I (Mark) can’t imagine what the survivors and their families are going through right now. They have been hurt so deeply by this that their lives will never be the same. Those that were injured and those that lost family members will have this tragedy forever on their minds.
If you are a believer in God, I suggest that you be in constant prayer for those affected by this tragedy. There are also other ways to show support such as various relief funds that have been established. Below is a list of ways to help some of the victims of the bombing. If you are reading this in print and cannot go to the links below, this list was taken from The Huffington Post website at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/15/help-boston-marathon-victims_n_3087183.html.
Jeff Bauman, a spectator who lost both legs in the aftermath of the blasts, will likely face hefty medical bills as he begins to recover. To help offset the costs, friends and family have launched the Bucks For Bauman fundraiser. Find out how you can get involved here. Bauman’s family is also asking people to send letters of support to Jeff. Mail can be sent to: Jeff Bauman C/O Jen Joyce 117 Tyngsboro Rd. Westford, MA 01886 or Jeff Bauman C/O Jen Joyce P.O. Box 261 Chelmsford, MA 01824.
In lieu of flowers, the family of Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old woman from Medford, Mass., who was killed in the explosions, has asked supporters to make donations to the Krystle M. Campbell Memorial Fund. Contributions can be sent to 25 Park St. Medford, MA 02155
While waiting for their dad to cross the finish line, Martin Richard, 8, was killed in the blast and his younger sister, whose name has not been released, had her leg amputated in the aftermath. Their mother, Denise, was also hospitalized with serious injuries. To help the family get through this devastating period, friends and family have established the Richard Family Fund. Find out how you can support the Richards here.
Brothers Paul and JP Norden each lost their right legs following the Boston attacks and Paul’s girlfriend, Jacqui Webb, has already undergone two surgeries for shrapnel damage to her legs. To help the three victims pay for their overwhelming medical bills, friends and family have established the Jacqui, Paul and JP Recovery Fund. Find out how you can get involved here.
Friends and family of Patrick and Jessica Downes, newlyweds who each had a leg amputated after the blasts, are raising money for the couple’s medical bills. Find out how you can get involved with Help for Patrick and Jess here.
This tragedy will be forever remembered along with 9/11 and will remind us of the evil that is in the world. Why do bad things happen to good people? I think the answer lies in the fact that we all have the capacity for good and evil. There is a battle going on in all of us and we are pulled back and forth between the two. We are affected by our own bad decisions and the bad decisions of others. No one is immune from this. This is evident by the recent suicide of the son of Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church. Rick is probably the most well-know pastor in our country today and author of the bestselling books “The Purpose Driven Life” and “What On Earth Am I Here For?” Yet, he has not escaped being hurt deeply by life.
Bad things happen, but good things come out of it. I don’t necessarily think, “things happen for a reason.” Things happen. After things happen comes our response. How do we respond? Ultimately the good comes out of us. Look at the outpouring of support from our entire country in the aftermath of Boston. Rick Warren is starting a ministry based on mental illness as a result of his son’s death. We will see much more good come out of the Boston tragedy in the months to come.
Boston proves it. We are a world in need of a God and Savior. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Life will hurt us and we need the support of our friends and family. What does it all mean? Why are we here? We think about this much more when events like Boston occur. I would suggest that you pick up a copy of Rick Warren’s book, “What On Earth Am I Here For?” Or better yet, there are small groups studying this book at CedarCreek Church. It is great stuff and not to be missed. In the meantime let’s all band together and keep praying.
For more information about The Retirement Guys, tune in every Saturday at 1 PM on 1370 WSPD or visit www.retirementguysnetwork.com. Securities and Investment Advisory Services are offered through NEXT Financial Group Inc., Member FINRA / SIPC. NEXT Financial Group, Inc. does not provide tax or legal advice. The Retirement Guys are not an affiliate of NEXT Financial Group. The office is at 1700 Woodlands Drive, Suite 100, Maumee, OH 43537. 419-842-0550.