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Crystal Ellis returns to familiar turf on Monday



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Former Toledo Public Schools Superintendent Crystal Ellis, who started at the district in 1969 and retired in 1996 after more than six years in the top spot, will be back with the school system starting Monday as acting chief of staff.

Interim Superintendent John Foley told The Blade yesterday that he asked Mr. Ellis to take the position.

"I, as do a many great people in the community, have a great deal of respect for him," Mr. Foley said. "I think he brings a wealth of experience and wealth of respect from both within TPS and outside the district."

The appointment, which must be approved by the Toledo Board of Education, is the first by Mr. Foley to replace some of the dozen top administrators who left the district last month.

Jan Kilbride, who previously was assistant superintendent of high schools, temporarily was named acting chief of staff after Mr. Foley was appointed from that job into the superintendency.

Ms. Kilbride will now become the acting chief academic officer, and Val Napieralski, principal of the Early College High School, will become acting assistant superintendent for high schools.

Salaries have not been set, but Mr. Foley said they would be comparable to what the previous individuals in those positions were paid. As chief of staff, Mr. Foley was paid $109,692 annually.

The resignations and retirements of the dozen administrators were accepted by the board of education last month. They included Treasurer James Fortlage, Chief Academic Officer Craig Cotner, and Chief Business Manager Dan Burns.

Mr. Foley said he has not made a decision on who would replace Mr. Burns, whose last day was June 30.

The school board appoints the district's treasurer and superintendent. It is now in the early stages of searching for a permanent superintendent. Mr. Foley was given a contract through July, 2007, to replace former Superintendent Eugene Sanders.

Mr. Ellis was superintendent from Jan. 7, 1991, to Sept. 6, 1996. He was the first African-American to hold the top job in the district.

The district in 1996 named a portion of the former DeVilbiss High School the Crystal Ellis Conference Center in his honor.

The 73-year-old said he did not hesitate when Mr. Foley asked him to return.

"There wasn't any hesitation because you can recognize when a district loses 12 of its top people and you are asked by someone who you hold in high regard," Mr. Ellis said. "My life has been built around the strength of helping children."

Board President Darlene Fisher said she commended Mr. Foley for appointing Mr. Ellis.

Mr. Ellis attended Bowling Green State University and became the first African-American on the basketball team in 1951.

He started with the city school system as a physical education teacher and coach at Libbey High School. Mr. Ellis quickly rose to become an assistant principal at DeVilbiss and principal at the former Hamilton Elementary, Leverette Junior High, and Rogers High schools.

Mr. Ellis said he faced many challenges during his tenure as superintendent, including some of the same problems the district is facing today - declining enrollment, school closings, and poor test results.

"People kept coming up to me saying, 'Why don't you go back,'●" he said. "I guess you could say I retired, but I never really left."

Mr. Ellis has been asked to step in and work several times since retiring.

He was appointed principal of Start High School temporarily in 1998 and later worked with a program to assist suspended junior high schools students. He also was appointed principal of Libbey High School for the 2003-2004 school year.

He worked part-time until yesterday with Lucas County Children Services as an educational consultant.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:


or 419-724-6171.

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