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Published: Friday, 6/13/2003

Some TPS programs may avoid budget ax

The Toledo Board of Education said last night it hopes to save several programs that were cut in the proposed budget for next school year.

“The board asked the administration to provide financial figures for restoring certain programs and then suggesting what other cuts would be made in their stead,” board President Peter Silverman said. “They were proposed to be cut for this fall as part of what was voted on at the last meeting.”

The proposed budget for fiscal year 2004 totals $328.1 million - an increase of about $500,000 over current expenditures.

The board announced in May a $15 million reduction package for the fall, which includes cutting 230 teaching jobs. Last night's proposed amendments include finding ways to restore vocational programs, agricultural programs, the hotel/motel management program, and certain foreign language programs.

The board was scheduled to see a presentation on the budget last night, but Mr. Silverman postponed it because the board had spent more than four hours discussing its two planned single-sex schools, charter schools, and school uniforms.

The final budget for fiscal 2004 must be adopted by July 1 to comply with state law.

The special meeting, which is called a retreat, was held at the WGTE Public Broadcasting offices on South Detroit Avenue. The board holds such meetings every three months to tackle strategic issues.

The budget also shows increases in both estimated revenues and expenditures over last year.

“The big-picture things are that local revenues are steady, that health-care costs are expected to escalate rapidly, and that we are losing a growing number of students to charter schools,” Mr. Silverman said.

Earlier in the meeting, the board discussed at length its decision this week to convert two Toledo elementary schools to single-sex buildings this fall under a district plan to create more innovative programs and academy-type schools.

Also discussed was its decision in March to sponsor three charter schools for next year.

“The traditional way we have educated over the years doesn't fit all students,” Superintendent Eugene Sanders said. “We have to take bold and aggressive measures.”

Under the plan, Stewart Elementary School would become the state's only all-girl public school, while Lincoln Elementary School would become one of just four all-boy buildings in public districts.

Board Vice President Terry Glazer chastised Dr. Sanders for announcing the district's single-sex school plans without holding a public forum.

“You're changing two schools without having a single parent meeting,” Mr. Glazer said. “I don't buy that [Dr. Sanders] didn't have the time.”

Dr. Sanders said there was an “urgency” in announcing and instituting the single-sex plan in an effort to raise test scores, among other things.

Dr. Sanders said the district needs to offer alternative options to parents who are looking for choices. He added that Toledo Public Schools must stem the flow of students to charter schools.

Charter schools have taken about 1,500 students from the district over the last four years, Dr. Sanders said.

Board member Larry Sykes noted that the number of students leaving the public schools has caused a large financial impact on the district.

The three charter schools will be The Phoenix Academy, which would target actual and potential dropout students; the Brigadoon Academy, which would cater to students who are chronically expelled, suspended, or truant, and the Pregnant and Parenting Teens Academy, which would focus on pregnant students or those with children and would offer day care.

All three would include a virtual curriculum utilizing the Internet and would focus primarily on secondary school students, Mr. Silverman said.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to support the expansion of a foreign trade zone in Toledo and authorizing a compensation agreement with Libbey Glass, Inc. Under the agreement, the schools will receive $3 million from the company over the next 10 years.

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