After Toledo Public Schools policy-makers announced an array of measures to provide financial accountability and a commitment to more openness in their decision-making, voters wisely supported Issue 5, and by a surprisingly large margin.
TPS new, independent budget review process helped a lot. So did a promised re-evaluation of a mentoring program for new teachers, under which a single peevish person, by luck of the draw, could make or break a professional future.
Significant, too, was the board s plan to hire an ombudsman, and, along with Superintendent Eugene Sanders, to sign a “contract with Toledo.” The contract wisely expanded the board s accountability and communication commitment beyond long- and short-term finances to cover academic progress, the building program, and community involvement.
It was also helpful that most parents could see positive movement in TPS initiation of new programs, such as the same-sex academies, and in upgrading the solid performance and scores on proficiency exams.
TPS is still viewed by some as academically challenged, and much still needs to be done. The district was hurt by the fact that test scores of special education youngsters were added to those of students without disabilities, thanks to the federal “No Child Left behind” law.
Significantly, and with the help of public pressure and other labor organizations, TPS secured a pledge from the Toledo Federation of Teachers leadership that it would accept the same sort of co-pays on medical coverage common to nearly everyone else these days.
The TPS board has tended to get cranky under criticism, rather than exploring complaints with an eye not only to resolving them but also to using them as a tool for its own growth and renewal. The re-elected Larry Sykes and new board member Deborah Barnett must strive to help it permanently shake its former dismissiveness in this regard.
Thanks to its new flexibility, brought on in large part by the defeat of its August levy proposal and issues raised by the handful of people constituting the Urban Coalition, the board is in a good position to deal with ongoing challenges, and self-examination. Many in the coalition seemed uncompromising. Many had personal axes to grind, but some of those axes, in a general sense, needed to be considered.
TPS officials must keep their many commitments alive, for the sake of finding a resolution to their anticipated shortfall next year and for helping Mr. Sanders meet his five-year goal of turning Toledo s school system around.
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