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Published: Tuesday, 10/3/2006

Urged boycott apparently failed

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Public Schools leaders said it appeared yesterday that parents and students at Scott High School ignored calls made by a community group for a boycott of the school, even though more than a quarter of the students were absent.

A roughly 25-member group called the Concerned Citizens Group in Support of Toledo Public Schools' African-American Students promoted a student boycott of Scott for the first five days of the school year and during this week - when one of two critical state enrollment counts are made. Those counts generally form the basis for state funding of Ohio school districts.

District Interim Superintendent John Foley said yesterday's attendance was about the same as last Monday, a day on which poor attendance is not uncommon.

"Apparently, they are reporting that it is typical, although I would hope that it would be atypical," Mr. Foley said.

Scott, which is separated into four different schools inside the Old West End building, has 925 students. Yesterday, there were 260 absent - just over 28 percent.

"Our message has been consistent: We don't encourage people to miss school, and as adults, we don't feel we should be using students to further an agenda," Mr. Foley added.

The boycott group, led by former Scott basketball coach Ben Williams, issued demands to make changes at Scott, including starting the planned renovation of the school within one year; abandoning the "small school concept" used at the building, and hiring an African-American male as principal.

Mr. Williams could not be reached for comment last night.

Toledo Board of Education President Darlene Fisher said she previously told Mr. Williams that a boycott was not a good idea.

"My stance was that it is not in the best interest of the children, and it's not something I would advocate for," she said.

Twila Page, a local activist and longtime critic of Toledo Public Schools, spent the weekend calling parents and was one of eight people outside the high school yesterday morning with "Boycott Scott" signs.

"We are not trying to hurt the school. We want changes made," Ms. Page said.

Ms. Page said the school's academic offerings are not as rigorous as those at schools where more white students attend. Scott is predominantly attended by black students.

During the Sept. 26 Toledo Board of Education meeting, several parents and students from Scott and Libbey high schools told the board that they favored the reform that separates large high schools into separate smaller schools under one roof.

Robin Reese, whose daughter attends Scott, told the school board that teachers are much more concerned about their individual students and take initiative to call parents if there is a problem.

"Other cities are using it and it would be a travesty to lose it," Ms. Reese said.

Ms. Page said the call for a boycott would continue this week. A flyer handed out by the group asked parents to keep their children home yesterday and Friday.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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