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Published: Tuesday, 5/23/2006

Sanders leaves job early, to stay as a consultant

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A divided Toledo Board of Education voted to allow Superintendent Eugene Sanders to resign yesterday - three months earlier than previously agreed - and then appointed a longtime district administrator as his temporary replacement.

John Foley, a 29-year veteran of Toledo Public Schools, was promoted effective today from his position as chief of staff to interim superintendent until July 31, 2007.

In allowing Mr. Sanders to resign early, the board hired him to act as a consultant to Mr. Foley until June 30. Mr. Sanders will receive a compensation package totaling $42,340 plus medical insurance and other financial fringe benefits, such as annuity payments and monthly car allowance. Mr. Sanders will also receive $47,003 for more than 56 accumulated, unused vacation days.

In December, Mr. Sanders submitted his resignation, effective Aug. 31, and he has been offered the chief executive officer job for Cleveland's public schools. Negotiations on a contract there are not complete.

Toledo school board President Darlene Fisher and member Robert Torres voted against the resolution to accelerate the date of Mr. Sanders' resignation and appoint him as a consultant to Mr. Foley.

"I am in full support of moving the district forward and letting Mr. Sanders take his position in Cleveland," Ms. Fisher said.

"But I think it's difficult to use taxpayer dollars to hire back Mr. Sanders as a consultant."

She said that "the public would perceive that as a buyout when we don't have the money for that."

Under the agreement passed yesterday, Mr. Sanders will be paid $16,820 to act as a consultant and $25,520 because he will forgo compensation that he would have received until Aug. 31.

Mr. Sanders' consulting services may address the current and planned educational programs, the district's building program, current and projected staffing for TPS, and current and additional charter schools sponsored by the district.

Ms. Fisher cast the lone dissenting vote against appointing Mr. Foley as interim superintendent. She said she thought the term of the contract is too long and would adversely affect the search for a permanent superintendent.

In April, the board hired PROACT Search Inc. of Milwaukee to find Mr. Sanders' successor by Sept. 1. Ms. Fisher yesterday suggested discussing how that search will proceed but did not have support for the idea.

Yesterday's 7:30 a.m. special board meeting was at times contentious. After the 3-2 vote to release Mr. Sanders from his contract and hire him as a consultant, Ms. Fisher asked if she would have to sign the agreement.

She softened her stance and signed the document after board vice president Deborah Barnett and member Steven Steel said it was her duty to sign the contract.

Mr. Sanders, who was superintendent for nearly six years, thanked the Toledo community "for unprecedented levy support" and detailed some of the accomplishments the district has achieved under his watch - including becoming the first urban district in Ohio to attain the state's "continuous improvement" rating.

"Obviously there are mixed emotions," Mr. Sanders said of his departure. "I would hope that five years from now, people will say there was a gentleman here named Eugene Sanders, and that he cared about children and did the best he could."

Mr. Sanders, 49, who holds a doctorate in education from Bowling Green State University, said he would consider introducing in Cleveland some of the same reforms that he instituted in Toledo, including single-gender schools and uniforms.

Mr. Foley, 50, who lives in Toledo's Old West End, will be paid a $130,000 annual base salary, a $500 monthly car allowance, and will receive health benefits.

In 2004, Mr. Foley became assistant superintendent of school improvement and reform. He became chief of staff in August, 2005.

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who led an unsuccessful effort earlier this year to keep Mr. Sanders on as superintendent, declined comment on the financial arrangements.

He said appointing Mr. Foley was "a wise decision" because he knows the district's financial challenges and can maintain the current momentum. He said he believed it was too late in the year to recruit a "cream of the crop" permanent superintendent to start in September.

"I would wish Dr. Sanders well. My concern lies with sustaining the opportunities we have in Toledo Public Schools," the mayor said.

Staff writer Tom Troy contributed to this story.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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