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Published: Thursday, 9/16/2004

Minority-owned firms to share in $821M project

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Public Schools yesterday reiterated its commitment to include minority and female owners of contracting firms and employees in its $821 million construction project - which is undergoing a major rescheduling because of enrollment declines in some schools and increases in others.

The district has committed that minority-owned firms would comprise 20 percent of any contracts over $250,000, and female-headed companies should make up 5 percent of those. In addition, the goal for work force composition are 20 percent minority, 5 percent female, and 25 percent district resident.

"I think it's a goal we need to set, and make it a reality," Superintendent Eugene Sanders said.

In July, the district announced that the Northwest Ohio Black Chamber of Commerce would monitor the inclusion initiative. Karen Ashford, chief executive officer of the group, met with reporters yesterday during a news conference at the district's headquarters.

She said the chamber would ensure compliance. It plans to conduct visits to construction sites, interview contractors, and examine documentation of the number of minority and female business owners who are contractors or subcontractors.

Meanwhile, the project to renovate or replace all the district's school buildings was discussed yesterday by Toledo Public Schools oversight committee.

Dan Burns, the district's chief business manager, said many of the schools for which declines are projected are in the central city.

Steve Flagg, co-president of Parents for Public Schools and a member of the Urban Coalition, criticized the plan to postpone construction in that area because it would encourage population declines. "I believe that it is going to accelerate the decline in the urban core," he said.

Among the proposed changes are postponing construction of Scott, East Toledo, and Jones middle schools; Franklin and Edgewater elementary schools, and Woodward High School, and the renovation of Harvard Elementary.

Several schools, including Grove Patterson Academy, Elmhurst, Navarre, McTigue, Marshall, Spring, Fall-Meyer, and Waite will be renovated or built ahead of their original schedules, Mr. Burns said.

"I'm not going to hide from the fact that there are some enrollment declines," he said. "And we can't build a school if we don't have the students for it."

Construction of Bowsher, Scott, and Start high schools; Leverette, Libbey, Robinson, and Waite middle schools, and Oakdale and Ottawa River elementary schools will proceed between now and 2006.

Renovation of the Thomas A. DeVilbiss Academic and Technology Center also will occur during that period.

More construction than originally planned on elementary schools will take place in the second phase, which concludes in 2008.

Changes to segments two and three of the six-segment project are scheduled to be voted on by the board of education at its meeting later this month.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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