Durant: Support ‘TPS Proud’Written by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
October’s just ended, but this has already been an exciting period for Toledo Public Schools because of several innovative programs we have implemented this school year.
Perhaps the biggest initiative is the start of the Jones Leadership Academy, a high school based on single-gender school models. Boys and girls are educated in separate wings of a former elementary school and then interact at scheduled times.
The curriculum emphasizes leadership, community service and entrepreneurship/financial literacy. Students join either the Young Women Of Excellence or Young Men Of Excellence leadership group and partnerships have been formed with organizations such as the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce.
A second piece of exciting news came with the awarding of a grant from the Obama administration as part of a national program that focuses on making high school students ready for the workforce.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez visited Toledo in late July to learn more about the district’s plans to implement the new Pathway to Prosperity program. The grant funds programming associated with energy, manufacturing and electronics and is available to students who attend five TPS high schools.
As part of the grant, TPS has developed partnerships with local businesses and colleges to provide support for students, including student liaisons, career coaches and college coaches.
Along the same lines, we’ve expanded our award-winning Toledo Technology Academy (TTA) to include seventh- and eighth-grade students. Students at TTA — along with our students at Toledo Early College High School — take college-level courses and earn college credit as they fulfill their high school curricular requirements.
This emphasis on making students college and career ready is also reflected in the array of career technology programs the district offers, which allow students to graduate with a diploma and skills for today’s workforce.
Another feather in our cap came when TPS received federal funds to run a large portion of the Head Start program in Lucas County. Partnering with WSOS Community Action and the Lucas County Family Council, we are providing services to almost 900 children, ages birth to 5, at TPS and carefully selected childcare locations.
Our progress is being recognized locally, regionally and nationally. Toledo Public Schools was the only urban district in the state of Ohio to receive an A rating on the state report card for Value Added Education. That means our students are gaining two years of knowledge in one school year. In addition, TPS received top grades for meeting the needs of both gifted and special education students.
As you can see, TPS teachers and staff are busy working to make a difference in our community. But now we need your help. We are asking you to vote “yes” on Issue 1, a new 5.8-mill levy that will cost a homeowner with a $60,000 home approximately $10 per month. Of that total amount, 4.3 mills are designated for operations and the remaining 1.5 mills would be designated for permanent improvements.
The levy funds will be used to:
O Restore the bus transportation for K-12 students that was eliminated in 2010. Bus transportation will improve student attendance and safety and also benefit parochial and charter school families.
O Support competitive salaries to attract and retain the most qualified teachers, administrators and staff. TPS is currently the lowest-paying urban district in Ohio and among the lowest in our region.
O Pay for ongoing maintenance and repairs to existing facilities and updating our instructional technology.
The approximately $13.3 million that would be raised would be the first new money for the district since 2001. The levy is for five years and we have identified specific goals against which the community can measure outcomes.
If Issue 1 passes, TPS will not be on the ballot again until 2018 when current tax levies are due to be renewed.
I pledge to you that I will continue to implement the district’s highly acclaimed transformation plan and expand on programs that are allowing our students to excel.
I want to continue the momentum we have started so ALL of our students and graduates can say, “I am TPS Proud.”
Romules Durant is CEO and superintendent of Toledo Public Schools and a TPS Proud graduate of Waite High School, Class of 1994.