Toledo Public Schools Board member lays out plan for districtWritten by Casey Harper | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo Public Schools Board Member Larry Sykes presented his plan for the future of the district at a news conference July 10. He cited the “budgetary crisis” requiring changes and emphasized how the district needs to focus and develop.
“[My priorities] would be board development, implementation of the Evergreen audit, starting the superintendent search and going out in the community and promoting the levy by educating the people that you want to vote for it,” Sykes said. “If any other board members have a plan, they need to share it.”
“In recent years, Columbus faced closing 9 schools, Cleveland closed 18, and Kansas City closed 30 out of their 60 schools,” Sykes said in a press release. “Detroit Public Schools has proposed corporate partnering for their bus services in order to save over $50 million over the next five years. Chicago is considering corporate partnering of food services for their district. Los Angeles Unified School District proposed cutting days from the school year in order to save millions. These districts reflect the fact that our issues are not unique to Toledo Public Schools.”
Sykes, who has been on the TPS Board for 14 years, included several more areas of focus for TPS such as a need for greater transparency and a reduction plan to save money.
“I am the senior, the elder, the most knowledgeable, the longest serving board member on there and the only one from corporate America so that has given me a broad based perspective on governing and managing business,” Sykes said. “I have been through ten superintendents. I have hired four so when I talk about this and when I put something like this together, it is from experience, from what I have seen that has been proven to be successful. Now they can take it and use it or not.”
Sykes, who on July 11 filed to run for Toledo City Council, wants a committee to be selected to help implement the recommendations of the Evergreen audit report, which cost $100,000.
“It outlined every aspect of the district there was,” he said.
Board Member Bob Vasquez said he called for such a committee in an open board meeting three months ago. He said there was talk of allowing the business advisory committee to take this role, but added he disagrees with this idea.
“I think we need a broader range on that committee,” Vasquez said. “Implementation of the audit is, in my mind, a whole different subject and needs to be a whole different committee.”
Sykes said that the board must work to inform the community about the upcoming levy and the consequences of not passing it. The 6.5-mil renewal levy will be on the Nov. 5 ballot. The original levy was approved by voters in 2008. The renewed levy is planned to bring in $13 million annually for TPS.
“If the levy doesn’t pass, what you gonna do?” Sykes said. “You gonna have to stop this; layoff this. The public needs to know the consequences of not passing the levy. Let them know what the possibilities are.”
He said the district has made mistakes in the past.
“A couple of years ago, they cut sports,” Sykes said. “That was the worst thing in the world they could have done was to cut sports. We lost so many kids; it was crazy. People start pulling their kids out of school like you won’t believe.”
Sykes laid out his priorities if cost reduction measures need to be taken. He put protecting classroom instruction and innovative programs that build enrollment at the top of the list.
He also said the board should immediately appoint a search committee to find a superintendent replacement. Romules Durant will begin serving as interim superintendent at the end of July when Superintendent Jerome Pecko’s contract expires.
Sykes repeatedly emphasized the importance of starting a conversation with the community to get its input.
“If you want the community support, you have to do what the community asks in order for them to believe in you,” Sykes said.