If the Cleveland school board wants to hire Eugene Sanders as its next chief executive, it will have to compete with the Toledo Board of Education.
All five members of the Toledo school board now say they want to keep Mr. Sanders in the city school system's top job.
Mr. Sanders resigned from his post in December, effective Aug. 31. At the time, he said he believed two newly elected board members - Darlene Fisher and Robert Torres - wanted to replace him.
Since his decision, the superintendent has become one of two finalists for the chief executive position of the 60,000-student Cleveland school district.
In an apparent about-face - and partially in response to a strong request by Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner - the local school board agreed unanimously during a special meeting yesterday to negotiate with Mr. Sanders to remain with the 30,000-student Toledo school district.
Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who has urged Toledo Public Schools to keep Eugene Sanders on board as superintendent, greets board President Darlene Fisher before a special meeting.
However, the presidents of two TPS unions objected to yesterday's board action.
Francine Lawrence, presi-dent of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, issued a written statement that her union "will demand and expect that contracts with teachers and paraprofessionals be reopened" if the board rescinds its acceptance of Mr. Sanders' resignation.
"We have a written commitment that the superintendent cannot receive an increase in compensation until employees receive the same," the statement said. Ms. Lawrence was not available for comment yesterday.
David McClellan, president of the Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel, echoed those concerns.
In December, Toledo Public Schools reached contract agreements with its unions that extended for one year the previous contracts with no changes in salary or health insurance.
Mr. McClellan said offering any extra money to Mr. Sanders would jeopardize those contracts.
"I'm not exactly sure if I understand what [the vote] means," he said. "Over the last couple of days, everyone has spoken for the superintendent except him. I'm not sure if this means he wishes to stay."
Mr. Finkbeiner, who earlier this year promised to act as liaison between city hall and the school district, chimed in on the superintendent situation last week and urged the school board to keep Mr. Sanders.
Ms. Fisher, board of education president, is the only member to oppose the mayor's campaign to keep Mr. Sanders - saying he should move on.
After the board 5-0 vote, Ms. Fisher said: "I think it's real important to hear from Dr. Sanders about his intentions and loyalty to this district."
When asked if her affirmative vote yesterday signaled a change of heart, she replied: "I've continued on my path that it's always important to have open and honest discussion."
Mr. Sanders has stayed silent on his resignation, his prospects in Cleveland, and Mayor Finkbeiner's passionate plea for him to stay in Toledo.
The superintendent was in Washington for a conference yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
Board member Larry Sykes said he believes Mr. Sanders would like to stay in Toledo and said "it's not about money, for the most part, for Dr. Sanders."
Mr. Sanders, 49, is paid a base salary of $147,767 annually, but his total compensation equals $194,179. The former Cleveland superintendent, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who left the post last month, was paid an annual base salary of $278,000. Her total compensation was not available yesterday.
The Toledo school board met in private for just over an hour before voting on a resolution that authorizes Mr. Sykes and Mr. Torres to meet with Mr. Sanders "to explore his continued employment with the district."
Mr. Torres - Toledo's manager of economic and community development in the Finkbeiner administration - denied indicating a desire for Mr. Sanders to resign.
"I can be open that people may have misread my positions," he said. "Personally, I would like to see a superintendent who has the passion, enthusiasm, and creativity that has been exhibited by Dr. Sanders in the years that I have know him and it could be him," meaning Mr. Sanders.
After the unanimous vote, Mayor Finkbeiner and other community leaders applauded.
"I think it's important for school board meetings to go forward without acrimony or rancor," Mr. Finkbeiner said.
But not everyone wants Mr. Sanders to keep his job in Toledo.
A small but vocal group called the Urban Coalition, which is usually represented by the same half-dozen or so people, held a news conference Tuesday objecting to the mayor's "Keep Sanders" campaign.
The Toledo school board's action probably will have little effect on Cleveland's final selection process.
Larry Davis, chairman of the Cleveland Board of Education, released a statement regarding the Toledo school board's vote.
"It is gratifying to know that one of our finalists appears to be so highly thought of by his board of education," he said. "Our board owes it to the Cleveland community to continue our search process with all due diligence in a way that allows us to thoroughly explore what each of the finalists would bring to the Cleveland schools."
The Cleveland school board narrowed its list of finalists to two candidates on Saturday: Mr. Sanders and Nancy McGinley, chief academic officer of Charleston, S.C., schools.
Representatives from Cleveland are to visit the Toledo and Charleston school systems before the Cleveland board makes its decision.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: