Our endorsement of the Toledo Public Schools' renewal levy last week was based in part on several indicators of clear improvement.
Accordingly, our recommendations regarding two seats on the TPS board of education go to the candidates who in our view offer the best chance for that improvement to continue.
Those candidates, we believe, are incumbent Larry Sykes, a former president of the board, and newcomer Stephen Goldman, a genetic engineer at the University of Toledo.
Mr. Sykes is a six-year veteran of the school board who has seen this school district at its lowest ebb. He also has been part of the turnaround in test scores, attendance, and graduation rates that Toledoans are beginning to witness.
Professor Goldman is one of two candidates for a vacant seat, a spot that opened up when board member Terry Glazer announced he would not seek another term.
Mr. Sykes and his board colleagues are midway through their five-year educational improvement plan and have already made great strides. They are hiring an ombudsman and, along with the superintendent, have signed a “contract with Toledo” that covers long and short-term results in finances, academic progress, the building program and community and parental involvement.
They've established five magnet academies, open to students throughout the city, and improved students' performance. They've gone after and won two huge grants destined to revolutionize teaching and learning at Libbey and Rogers high schools. They've established a Reading Academy to catch early students having difficulties and, in effect, a grade 41/2 for students who failed to pass proficiency tests after remediation.
And, no mean achievement, they persuaded voters to approve a capital levy that commands three times more in state dollars to upgrade school buildings - a once in a lifetime opportunity. By law that money can't be used for operations.
These have been tough times, and citizen pressure has rightly led the board to commit itself to more self-evaluation and systematic assessments of TPS programs.
Dr. Goldman, a University of Toledo professor, displays an impressive knowledge of TPS finances and operations.
As director of Environmental and Plant Science Research Centers at the University of Toledo, he also is aware that not all TPS graduates are ready for the academic rigors of college. He remembers when TPS graduates at UT “had the basics to start life off. They could read and write, and had some exposure to critical thinking.” Today, he said, some 40 percent of incoming freshmen are in remedial courses, especially in math.
He's a successful teacher and says he knows how to put a quality academic program together. Skilled in pursuing and securing grants, inadequate funds would not dissuade him. He says he'd go out and find money.
Dr. Goldman is a good choice for another reason. While the board's newest member need not be a Terry Glazer clone, we are impressed that Mr. Goldman seems to have that same determination to hold the district - and his board colleagues - accountable and challenge them when appropriate. We like that.
The third person in this race, banking executive Deborah Barnett, acknowledges that she would have a hard time filling that confrontational role.
The community must demand that TPS' progress continue. The best way to help that happen is to re-elect Mr. Sykes and add Mr. Goldman to the board.