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Published: Tuesday, 3/25/2003

Group would scrap TPS oversight panel

A group of Toledo Public Schools opponents is calling on the district to dissolve its oversight committee for the $821 million school construction project made possible by the voters' passage of Issue 2 in November .

“It is now up to the board to decide whether our rebuilding program will ultimately be one characterized by recklessness and exclusion or by accountability and inclusion,” said Ben Krompak, spokesman for the Smart Schools Task Force, a part of the Metro Toledo Smart Growth Partnership where Mr. Krompak is program director.

He was joined at a news conference yesterday by members of Save Our Schools, a group that campaigned against the building levy last year and now works with the Smart Schools Task Force, and by several others who routinely have criticized the district.

Board of education president Peter Silverman said no changes would be made to the oversight committee.

“The request is ridiculous,” he said. “It's not a coincidence that the advocates who want us to renovate the schools are the ones who are criticizing the procedure. You don't hear anyone who is happy with the way building decisions were made criticizing the procedure. It's a power game.”

The board has responded to public criticism during the development of the building project, Mr. Silverman said, citing the addition of public forums, a change in format of some forums after complaints, and the district's request to the Ohio School Facilities Commission to change the criteria for replacing schools that allowed for more school renovation.

Ultimately, Mr. Silverman said, the decisions about the fates of individual schools were - and will be - made by people living in those schools' neighborhoods.

“It's healthy to have this kind of debate. I do welcome the criticism and the board's position is where we think it's well-placed, we're going to listen,” he said

In January the district announced it was seeking applicants for the oversight committee for the building project. The four co-chairs were named then.

Earlier this month, Superintendent Eugene Sanders announced the 15 members who were selected by the oversight committee chairs from among 52 applicants. Three work part-time for the district as parent coordinators or community partners.

Mr. Krompak was among the applicants not selected as was Steve Flagg, a member of the district watchdog group, Parents for Public Schools who attended Mr. Krompak's news conference yesterday.

Darlene Fisher, the president of Parents for Public Schools, was named to the oversight committee.

Mr. Krompak said yesterday if the district is to have an effective oversight committee for the decade-long project, it should “overhaul and reconstitute” the panel.

The task force's suggestions for improvement include having the board pass a resolution sanctioning the committee and endorsing its mission, taking a formal vote on the panel's chairs, and defining a selection process for committee members that includes interviews, the signing of conflict-of-interest statements, and preference to Toledo residents.

“We believe the rebuilding program is in crisis,” Mr. Krompak said. He said he plans to present his suggestions at today's 5:30 p.m. board meeting.

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