AN URBAN school superintendent with a progressive record of accomplishment despite long odds is a highly marketable commodity. School districts fighting all the well-known woes of public education, from persistent money problems to attaining acceptable academic achievements, vie for proven, capable leadership to fix what's broken.
So it is not surprising that Toledo school Superintendent Eugene Sanders, who has presided over a fair number of success stories with Toledo Public Schools, is aggressively sought after by other districts, including the one in Washington, D.C. It should be flattering to Mr. Sanders, and TPS, that he was a finalist for the top job in the District of Columbia, even though the post ultimately went to another candidate.
It should also serve as notice to the Toledo Board of Education that the superintendent, who has led Toledo schools for four years -longer than many big-city chief administrators of public schools-may not fulfill his contract, which runs to 2009, as new challenges beckon elsewhere.
Board member Larry Sykes acknowledged as much when summarizing the superintendent's history. "When he was hired, his first goals were to resolve negotiations with the union, to pass the levy, to get parents involved in the district with new programs, and keep the eye on the prize, and that was getting us off academic emergency," said Mr. Sykes. "He has accomplished every goal we've given him."
Which is not to say Mr. Sanders has cleared every hurdle that TPS presents, like continuing labor negotiations and the extensive school construction project, not to mention ongoing academic struggles. Test scores have markedly improved, though not in all categories.
The district's celebrated vault out of its long-time academic emergency status with the Ohio Department of Education may indeed help it win renewal of a $15.7 million operating levy on the November ballot, but passage is not a given. School critics, who say fiscal accountability at TPS is lacking, could still mount a campaign to defeat the proposed levy.
But it's safe to say the status of Mr. Sanders has been elevated among many in the community by the attention he received from the Washington, D.C. school district. More than a few are relieved his service to Toledo schools and the children of the district will continue - at least for now.
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