The Toledo Board of Education has approved a one-year contract with Romules Durant to run Toledo Public Schools. His title will be interim superintendent.
Mr. Durant will take over Aug. 1 and will be paid $140,000, plus benefits. He is assistant superintendent and if he is not hired as the permanent superintendent in one year, he will have a chance to return to his old job or something comparable.
What Mr. Durant has going for him is that he is a Toledo native (he grew up in East Toledo) and a product of TPS. He was a student and a teacher here, so he knows the city and the system from the inside.
His local roots mean he brings affection and dedication to the task before him. He has a following, a popular constituency among parents, many of whom think he is a natural leader and an exceptional young man.
Mr. Durant’s handicaps are equally clear. Heading an urban school district is one of the toughtest jobs in America. He is young for the job and his entire experience is limited to Toledo. That can lead to an echo effect in a district that desperately needs new ideas and fresh ways of executing them.
Youth should be neither a qualifier nor a disqualification. With youth comes energy and optimism. With experience comes wisdom, but also, sometimes, rigidity and cynicism.
Mr. Durant faces a huge challenge and he must show Toledo what he’s got. Too much is at stake for Mr. Durant to simply inherit the permanent job because he is there and people like him.
The pressure is on Mr. Durant to perform. After a year he will have to show the board and the public real progress in the school system. The school board will have to do a serious and professional evaluation of his work, which would be best done with the help of impartial outside expertise.
Moreover, the board should do a national search for the permanent appointment. Mr. Durant should have to compete against candidates from other parts of the country, some of whom probably could teach TPS a lot.
It would be no tribute to him if he won the permanent position by default. More important, it would be a disservice to the schoolchildren of Toledo.
Mr. Durant has been given a shot here. He should not be given a sinecure. He should have every chance to succeed. Who doesn’t want to see a local guy make good and have the chance to give back to his community?
But he must also prove, by exemplary performance and in competition, that he is the right man for Toledo Public Schools.
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