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Published: Wednesday, 9/27/2006

TPS board argues over mediation bill

Even while discussing the need for professional help to stop fighting among themselves, the five Toledo Board of Education members quibbled, argued, and interrupted one another during the final hour of an otherwise peaceful three-hour regular meeting.

The members began arguing over a resolution to hire the Ohio School Boards Association for $2,000 for professional "development services."

Board President Darlene Fisher tried to have the board vote on that measure in conjunction with a separate measure that would pay for board members Larry Sykes and Deborah Barnett to attend out-of-town conferences.

Ms. Barnett accused Ms. Fisher of trying to "railroad" the board into hiring the association or preventing the two board members from attending the conferences.

The board had planned earlier this year to meet with a mediator for free from the Washington-based Council of Great City Schools. Ms. Barnett said the that effort died when the mediator said it was "too political" to work with the board.

Since then, Ms. Barnett has worked with the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce to have free mediation workshops.

After a lengthy debate, during which the members even seemed to insult each other, the board unanimously tabled the resolution to hire the association.

Ms. Fisher said she was offended by the debate to spend $2,000 for the mediation she had arranged, while sending Mr. Sykes to the Council of Urban Boards of Education conference in Phoenix and Mr. Sykes and Ms. Barnett to the National African American School Board Member conference in Virginia Beach, both of which would cost "up to $3,500."

During last night's pubic comment period, which was held close to the beginning of the meeting, several parents and students from Scott and Libbey high schools addressed the board regarding the debate over the reform that divides large high schools into separate smaller schools under one roof.

The organized effort apparently was meant to combat the statements of Scott's former basketball coach, Ben Williams, who has spearheaded a group demanding the reform be abandoned.

Gabrielle Cornelious, a student at Scott's School of Allied Health, said the small schools make the transition from junior high to high school easier for students.

"I also like small schools because of the teacher-student relationship," she said.

Also during the meeting, Francine Lawrence, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, said class sizes have exceeded 30 students in some cases. "I request that you examine those numbers and look at adding teachers to reduce those class sizes," she told the board.

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