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Published: Friday, 6/30/2006

A parade to Cleveland

FOR Toledo Public Schools, the other shoe has dropped. Two dozen of them, actually.

Twelve of TPS top administrators are bailing out some of them to follow former superintendent Eugene Sanders to Cleveland, where he is about to become the top executive of Cleveland Public Schools.

The potential crisis of leadership is a challenge that could rival and surpass TPS other problems, including declining enrollment and resultant school closings, and the difficulty of an anticipated fall levy campaign.

The loss of a few key administrators to Cleveland was expected; Mr. Sanders acknowledged during a taping of The Editors TV program two weeks ago that he was in serious discussions with some of them. But the mass resignations submitted to the school board the other night were still a shock, in terms of how many, and who.

They include treasurer James Fortlage, who helped craft school district budgets in the face of forever uncertain resources and tax revenues; Dan Burns, the district s chief business officer, who has overseen the school construction program, and Craig Cotner, TPS chief academic officer, who deserves some of the credit for getting the district out of the state s dreaded academic emergency category.

They and the other nine administrators who are leaving are the heart of TPS executive leadership. Collectively they are paid just over a million dollars a year.

You have to feel for John Foley, the newly appointed interim superintendent and one of the few at the top who will stay on. Circling the wagons will be difficult when the wagon train is headed east.

Compounding his problem is his interim status. He has the superintendent s job only until next summer. Replacing the departed executives with people of similar skills and backgrounds will be difficult if prospective hires, whether brought in from outside or promoted from within, have no assurances they ll have jobs beyond Mr. Foley s tenure.

Similarly, the loss of so much of the management team at TPS will certainly be a factor potential applicants will ponder as the district undertakes a presumably extensive search for a permanent replacement for Mr. Sanders.

In that vein, if the search determines that Mr. Foley is the best person for the job, and he still wants it, he would warrant serious consideration.

It s regrettable that so many TPS leaders have decided to move on at a time when the district has such serious problems. Passing a much needed levy in the fall will be even more difficult, and enrollment could very well drop below 30,000 students when schools reopen later this summer.

The mass exodus is one more unfortunate outcome of the election of board members last year whose campaign for change signaled to Mr. Sanders that his job was no longer secure. A school board that remains badly fractured no doubt contributed to the decisions to go by some of the 12.

Board members and Mr. Foley need to attack the challenge confronting them and find the best people they can for these critical vacancies. Most of all this school board needs to stop the foolish bickering and remember its most important constituents: the students.



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