School Board Candidate Profile: Perry LefevreWritten by Kevin Moore | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In his bid for one of the three vacant seats on the Toledo Public Schools (TPS) Board of Education, Perry Lefevre brings 28 years of teaching experience in the public school system as well as a background in union leadership.
“I graduated from Baylor University in 1985, and I taught for a year in Texas,” Lefevre said. “When I moved to South Toledo, I began working for Sylvania Schools, teaching social studies at Sylvania Northview High School.”
Lefevre is not a stranger to getting involved in issues he believes in. He is currently president of the Arlington Neighborhood Association, a group of concerned South Toledo residents who have worked to hire private security, reduce crime and promote safety in their neighborhood. Within Sylvania schools, Lefevre has been a Quiz Bowl coach and has served the past two years as president of the Sylvania Education Association, the teacher’s union for the school district.
“I have a labor background, and I believe in collective bargaining. Right-to-work conditions are part of the reason I left Texas,” he said.
Lefevre’s two children have attended TPS, and his son will graduate from college next year with a teaching degree.
“I believe in TPS. I’ve never thought it didn’t live up to expectations,” Lefevre said. “In fact, the district has been at the forefront of public education. For example, the Toledo Plan, which the district adopted in the ’80s, used concepts we were discussing at Baylor. Basically this program required new teachers to work under a mentor for two years. It’s now required by the state, but TPS was at the forefront.”
In acknowledging TPS’ accomplishments, Lefevre believes the school board needs to do more to promote the district to the community.
“We need to promote much more pride in TPS. We need to restore pride in the district because it really is something to be proud of,” he said.
However, Lefevre said TPS needs to improve some specific issues such as low graduation rates and student reading levels. According the 2012-13 Ohio school report card, the district had a graduation rate of 64.6 percent.
“One way to fix the low graduation rate is reading. The governor recently passed the Third Grade Reading Guarantee program, and if students are reading at an early age, they’re statistically proven to perform better throughout the rest of their lives. I think we need a First Grade Guarantee. I think our district can meet the Third Grade Guarantee and we can go above and beyond.”
Another issue facing the district comes from charter schools, which Lefevre said are an untested alternative to public education.
“If you look at school performance, charter schools make up the bottom. But children are leaving public education for these charter schools.”
Editor’s Note: Each Toledo Public Schools Board of Education candidate was also asked to answer 10 questions. Here are Lefevre’s unedited responses. Plus: Exclusive analysis by Urban Coalition member Steven Flagg.
1. What are three most crucial issues – in order of importance – facing Toledo Public Schools? What would you do as a board member to address the issues you identify?
We must improve our graduation rate. Job and career prospects for an adult without at least a high school diploma are dismal. To counter this, I would promote three responses. First, we must stress reading at grade level in the first grade in all of our K-8 schools. Studies have shown that students reading at grade level in the first grade will be successful in high school. This will require greater parent and adult involvement from our community. Second, we must promote programs that develop students’ respect for one another and education. The Young Women and Young Men of Excellence programs in TPS, as developed and directed by Dr. Durant, are perfect examples of the platforms we need to develop our successful students as role models for the rest of our student body. We need to expand these programs fully. Finally, we need to expand and promote our career technical education programs in TPS. They are excellent programs that deserve more focus than they receive. Not only do our students in these programs receive highly technical educations and develop marketable skills, they also develop a greater sense of self-worth and work ethic that derives from learning those skills. The sky is the limit for these students once they graduate from TPS. Our country needs more skilled workers and many apprenticeship training programs available right here in the Toledo area lack qualified candidates for enrollment. As a board member, developing, expanding and promoting these three goals would be my number one task.
We must promote pride and a sense of respect in our schools. We must demonstrate that TPS is the right choice for an education in Toledo. We can reverse the trend towards the unsuccessful charter schools by exposing them for what they really represent and by revealing the good things happening every single day in our public schools. I am absolutely convinced that the success of Toledo is rooted in the success of Toledo Public Schools. As a board member, I will work to achieve that goal at all times.
Finally, we must continue to develop partnerships with the businesses and non-profits of our community. The socio-economic challenges of our community and, especially of our students, are not insignificant, but they are not insurmountable. We as a community must work together to improve opportunities for our children. I pledge to work with all groups in our community with the primary goal of improving the lives of our youngest members.
2. Why should voters select you to represent them in decisions and matters affecting the education of Toledo’s children in their public schools?
I am a strong advocate for public education. I am a veteran educator with 28 years’ experience as a classroom teacher and as an advocate for quality education and educators. My experiences as an educational labor leader have broadened my knowledge of the challenges in education to a much greater extent than that of a typical classroom teacher. I have successfully collaborated with stakeholders in all aspects of education; elementary, secondary, special education, English as a Second Language (ESL), career tech, etc. Furthermore, I understand the terminology associated with each area. I have been actively involved in the preparations in response to the challenges of the changes recently heaped upon public education by our state legislators. I have negotiated numerous contracts in good financial times and bad and am familiar with Ohio labor law. I have worked on successful and unsuccessful levy campaigns and dealt with financial forecasts that can be very exasperating with the history of inconsistent educational funding formulas from Columbus. In short, I believe that my learning curve will be minimal for this position and that I am best suited to ensure that the board of education moves quickly to respond to our challenges in TPS.
3. What is the primary role of a Toledo Board of Education member?
To collaborate with fellow board members to make sound policy and financial decisions; to hire and retain quality educators and to proudly represent TPS to the community, state and nation. The board of education should be the number one cheerleaders for the successes of our schools.
4. The Toledo Public Schools recently completed a performance audit with projected savings of $91 million over 5 years. Do you agree with and support implementation of the recommendations provided by the audit?
While I am familiar with the recent Evergreen Solutions audit and recognize value in some of its content, I have significant concerns regarding specific recommendations made by this out-of-state company. One recommendation in particular that I find uninformed and disturbing is the elimination of 15 TPS building administrators. Anyone familiar with the demands of the state-mandated Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) knows that this new system requires literally thousands of additional teacher evaluations annually. Other districts are being forced to hire additional administrators to meet the required two yearly evaluations (plus walk-thrus) of each and every teacher in their districts. Administrators will be required to spend substantial amounts of time in pre-conferences and post-conferences related to each evaluation. There will be little time for their other administrative duties. Because of this glaring irregularity in the Evergreen Solutions audit, I am forced to reserve my judgment of its other recommendations until such time as I am able to discuss the impact of each on their respective departments. This is not to say that I reject the recommendation of the audit, but do believe that agreeing to support their implementation at this time without further study of its impact would be irresponsible.
5. TPS will need to negotiate contractual changes to realize a significant portion of the savings recommended in the audit. Do you believe contractual changes can be made to realize these savings and how would you as a board member facilitate negotiations?
I believe in collective bargaining as a solution to issues that both sides bring to the table. As I similarly stated in my response to #4, the implementation of the Evergreen Solutions recommendations would require more research and discussion of their potential impact with stakeholders before I would be able to respond to this question.
6. TPS currently has a renewal levy on the ballot that will raise approximately $16 million annually for five years or about the annual savings that can be obtained by implementing the performance audit recommendations. Why should the TPS renewal levy be approved by voters?
There exists no possible way to guarantee that the performance audit’s projected annual savings will ever be realized by TPS. What is factual and guaranteed is that the current year of the bi-ennial budget for the state of Ohio returns to TPS a paltry 6.25% of the dramatic state funding cuts that we experienced in 2011. For the second year of that budget, every other school district in Lucas County will receive an additional 10.5% except TPS. Either way, no school district in Ohio will receive the level of funding that it received in 2009, yet costs continue to rise. Without passage of this renewal levy, a levy which does not represent an additional tax on our residents, the cuts that will need to be made at TPS will be drastic. I believe that TPS is on track to turn the corner and achieve success. If we fail to renew this levy, we fail our children and we fail our community. Please vote YES for Issue #24!
7. Ohio statutes require that TPS teachers and principals have regular performance evaluations with student performance on standardized tests a component of the evaluation. Should teachers and principals be held directly accountable for student performance in their individual performance evaluations? Why or why not?
No. I do not support high stakes testing. I do not believe that educators should be directly accountable for student performance on high stakes tests. Unlike their competitors, public school must educate all of the students who arrive at their doors. They have no control of the students who attend their schools. We do the best that we can with students who have many challenges in their lives already. A more realistic determinant of a teacher’s performance is the Value-Added Measurement standard developed by Batelle for Kids.
8. Ohio is currently implementing national standards regarding the skills and knowledge all students need for success referred to as the “Common Core”. Why do you support or oppose the adoption of these standards?
The goal of Common Core is to educate students on how to process information and use it to achieve academic success. Traditionally, content standards have often represented the attainment of knowledge. As we find ourselves in the “Information Age,” students must learn how to assess and apply the knowledge that is readily available to them at a moments’ notice thanks to the Internet and smartphones.
9. What endorsements have you received as a candidate? Do you believe any of these endorsements present a potential conflict of interest with the community you would be elected to represent?
I am one of three endorsed Democrat candidates for Toledo Schools Board of Education. Furthermore, I have the endorsement of numerous labor groups in the Toledo area including the administrators, teachers and support staff of Toledo Public Schools. Toledo is a labor town. Most Toledoans recognize the contributions the labor movement has made to our society and support the right of workers to collectively bargain. I do not believe that a conflict of interest would arise from my labor background any more than that of someone with a business background. We are working together to make TPS the best that it can be. I believe that I can balance my interest in providing the best education possible for our community’s children with my belief that our employees must be treated fairly.
10. Parents today have a plethora of options including private, parochial, charter, virtual, and home schooling besides traditional public schools. How are parents to make this decision? And when is the public school option the best choice for parents?
Parents who care about a wide variety of curricular options for their children, taught by quality educators and delivered in an educational setting that is truly representative of the culture in which they live, will always choose a traditional public school. The public schools in the United States made this country a first world nation by educating the masses and they continue to be the focus of our neighborhoods and our communities despite their challenges. We must work together as a community to keep our public schools strong or we will never succeed in improving Toledo