Newsmakers 2013: Durant leads TPS through levy, into futureWritten by Casey Harper | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo Public School (TPS) Superintendent Romules Durant believes in being out in the field. He walks around his schools so much that he wears out three pairs of shoes a month. He orders new shoes 10 at a time.
“In order for me to serve students best, I have to be grounded in their presence,” Durant said. “I want to change the paradigm of superintendency, being in the buildings, being involved. I tell people Dr. Durant is above no one, and no one is above Dr. Durant, and I make that a reality.”
TPS selected Durant as interim superintendent in April. He told Toledo Free Press this summer he did not have an “interim mentality.”
“If you try to rush a vision within a short period of time all you’re going to have is dysfunction as well as an overburdened staff. My actions are based on full force hitting the ground running,” Durant said.
The high mark of Durant’s time at TPS so far was the November passage of the 6.5-mill renewal levy. Without passage of the levy, the district would have had to make cuts, Durant said. His presence and high level of involvement in the community helped earn local support for the levy.
On Dec. 17, the district chose Durant as superintendent. He said his biggest goal is to continue implementing the transformation plan he helped design three years ago. He plans to emphasize dual credit and certification programs to provide a streamlined career track for students and continued community outreach.
“My goal is not necessarily impacting TPS, but impacting the city of Toledo,” Durant said. “If the city is strong, the school is strong.”
Durant has worked hard to reach out to the community. For several months he was speaking at a different Toledo church every Sunday. Now he has cut back to every other Sunday.
“I have to go to my church too, you know,” he said, laughing.
One of the biggest problems facing the district, Durant said, is students starting their first year of school already developmentally behind. That is one reason he stresses getting the entire community involved in education.
Durant grew up on the East Side. He graduated from Waite High School in 1994 and attended the University of Toledo on a football scholarship. He received a doctorate in education and administration from UT in 2007.
Durant has worked for the district in various positions since 2004. He said his experiences in the schools have helped him understand how to be a better superintendent.
Durant also knows a student’s education is affected by what happens outside the classroom. He wants to integrate programs like the United Way and YMCA into the school communities. He even plans to give outside programs space in the schools to operate.
“Education can’t be the solution to the problem alone,” he said.
Durant believes students excel in positive leadership roles.
“Providing kids leadership opportunities within the schools, I can’t stress that enough,” he said. “[I tell principals] they become the drivers of the culture of your building and when you provide them positive leadership opportunities that have expectations to them alongside of having a peer-to-peer support group that is being influenced by a mentor, I said, ‘You have an impactful program because now you have kids who are holding other students accountable to their actions as opposed to the presence of an adult.’”
Durant said he believes in building relationships and has worked to do so his entire career. He still keeps a towel given to him by the custodial staff at one school as a symbol of their gratitude for his kindness and showing genuine interest in them.
“If I treat people with respect they will always remember and they will come together to remember that, but those bridges you build on the way up are your support base when you’re there.”
Ultimately, Durant said he is TPS proud.
“Those aren’t just words, they’re a way of life,” he said.