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Published: 12/29/2006

Build bridges on TPS board

IT'S the job of the Toledo Board of Education to operate in the best interests of the school district, but two of the five members have missed that message. A new Web site about school issues seems to be more about glorifying board president Darlene Fisher and member Robert Torres. Their prominently placed photographs on the Web site indicates they are not interested in working with the rest of the board. The friction is becoming wearisome, and it's high time it stops. Board members need to close the chasm that divides them.

Toledo schools are facing a time of serious financial crisis. But instead of presenting a united front, all year the school board has performed like school club cliques, with one group steadily trying to undercut the other. This might not be so embarrassing if it didn't appear to be led by the board president.

Ms. Fisher and Mr. Torres were elected in November, 2005, on a platform for change. And there has been change since the pair was elected, all right. But so far it's been infighting, friction, and disunion. The public is tired of it, and has every right to be.

Ms. Fisher and Mr. Torres overlook that the school board has five members, not two, and that not one of them matters as much as the students. That this pair didn't first tell their colleagues before they told the public about www.talkingtps.com was highly unprofessional. Web sites can be a useful tool, but there is nothing useful about two board members developing an Internet site to address school issues - such as the new superintendent search and a levy - without telling the others.

Toledo Public Schools faces too many burdensome issues to be bogged down with puerile games. A looming budget deficit is projected to be $12.7 million in the next school year, and that could amount to $107 million in four years. The district needs a levy; teachers have not had a salary increase in five years, and the search is still on for a new superintendent. This is no time for backbiting in the governing body.

On Thursday the board gets another chance to elect a president. With so much disorder plaguing her presidency, it's time Ms. Fisher and her team step aside. This is not to suggest the rest of the board has been without fault. But whoever is elected president must be a consensus builder, bite his or her tongue often, and set aside personal interests and differences in favor of what's best for the schools and community.

On a recent editorial board visit to Rogers, students in the construction program were learning how to build bridges. The students understand that concept. But so far, their TPS school board members have not demonstrated that they do. It's time board members conduct themselves as the role models the public expects them to be.

The last thing Toledo students need is school leadership that is a laughingstock. Sadly, that's what they have now.



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