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Published: Saturday, 4/8/2006

Toledo school board puts off decision on closing 5 schools until next week

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A decision on whether to close five Toledo Public School buildings, slash 240 jobs, and make other cuts was put off yesterday until next week.

School board President Darlene Fisher asked for the delay at a meeting yesterday to gather more input on the proposed closing of King, Fall-Meyer, and Mount Vernon elementaries and Jones and East Toledo junior highs.

The plan also calls for Grove Patterson Academy and Ryder, a facility for 40 special-needs students, to be moved into the former DeVilbiss High School. The Washington school building, which houses a preschool program and administrative programs, also would be shuttered.

Ms. Fisher said she wants to learn more specific details on what the closings would entail. "This board will not be rushed into a decision like this," she said, referring to action needed to offset a projected $12 million deficit.

The board debated tabling the proposal for more than an hour before finally voting 3-2 to postpone action until a meeting Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the TPS administration building, 420 East Manhattan Blvd.

Board members Robert Torres and Steven Steel joined Ms. Fisher in voting yes.

Vice president Deborah Bar-nett and member Larry Sykes voted no.

Mr. Torres said he supported postponing yesterday's vote so the district's unions could be briefed on the plan with the same level of detail that board members had received.

"That was my intent, and I think we will be ready to vote on this next week," Mr. Torres said.

Ms. Fisher said she also wants several aspects of the proposal explained to the public in more detail.

"Our board should be disappointed the resolution did not include all the details," she said.

More than 200 people attended each of the two public forums on the closings - the first on Tuesday night concerning the junior high schools and the second on Wednesday regarding the elementary schools.

Closing the five schools and other measures the board postponed yesterday would cut about $6 million from the district's 2006-2007 budget.

Other cutbacks, including trimming 240 jobs, are incorporated into a list of other cuts the district released last week to offset the deficit.

Ms. Barnett and Mr. Sykes said they have had sufficient time to consider the proposal, because it was given to them on March 29. They said Superintendent Eugene Sanders has advised them repeatedly since December that there would be a need to close school buildings this year.

After the board members spent about an hour debating, Mr. Sanders reissued his recommendation to approve the resolution yesterday.

"I would caution the board, we are getting close to micromanagement on how the district is run," he said.

Ms. Fisher later disagreed with that statement, noting that "micromanaging would be getting into the day-to-day operations."

Under the district's proposed plan, Marshall, Newbury, Pickett, Stewart, Walbridge, and Westfield elementary schools would be transformed into K-8 and take the students displaced from Jones Junior High.

Birmingham, Garfield, and Raymer elementary schools would be turned from their current K-6 into K-8 and take in the children from East Toledo Junior High.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

419-724-6171.



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