Editor's note: This is one of a series of profiles of the six Toledo Public Schools board candidates running in the Nov. 6 election.
Steven Steel is alone among Toledo board of education candidates or sitting members in possessing full-time classroom teaching experience: He taught science at Waite High School for 12 years.
“Personally, I don't see how you can make good decisions on education with no education experience,” he said.
Dr. Steel, 39, is seeking one of three open seats on the five-member school board.
An endorsed Green Party candidate who has never held public office, he is one of six candidates in the Nov. 6 election.
His platform for school improvement includes increasing parental involvement in schools, maintaining school safety, and improving relations with teachers, in part by including them in district decision-making. “If the teachers don't buy into it, if they don't have an interest in it, it's not going to happen,” he said.
That model has worked, he said, with textbook selection committees formed by groups of teachers and administrators. He served on them twice.
“But in my experience it doesn't happen very often,” he said.
Dr. Steel would like to see better collaboration between the schools and community agencies and more pilot programs' becoming permanent.
He's a vocal opponent of tying proficiency test performance to evaluations of schools, teachers, and students.
“That's not what tests are for,” he said. “That really insults teachers. It insults what's going on in the classroom.”
Instead, Dr. Steel said, exams should be used to assess students' abilities and shortcomings to design better programs of study and learning.
Dr. Steel volunteers as a referee and basketball announcer for Toledo Public Schools and for a variety of local nonprofit agencies, mainly environmental projects.
His involvement includes teaching community workshops on composting, demonstrating at Republican national conventions, picketing against proficiency tests, and organizing Northwest Ohio Community Shares. “I want to be the alternative candidate,” he said.
His doctorate in American culture studies and sociology from Bowling Green State University came after two “hard” science degrees: a master's in science curriculum development and a bachelor's in comprehensive science education, also from BGSU.
He has worked as the communication director for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and teaches environmental science at BGSU. But his current job is as a stay-at-home dad to a 5-month-old daughter.
His domestic partner, Catherine Hernandez, has a daughter, Danielle, 15, who lives with them and attends Start High.