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Published: Saturday, 5/5/2007

Toledo Public Schools selects Foley to be school chief

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Toledo Board of Education dropped William Harner and decided yesterday they want John Foley to be their next superintendent.

The board of education voted 4-1 yesterday morning to negotiate with Mr. Foley, the district s interim superintendent, to become the next permanent educational leader.

Board member Darlene Fisher cast the dissenting vote.

Mr. Foley, a 30-year veteran of the school system, was promoted from chief of staff to interim superintendent when Eugene Sanders resigned and took the top job with the Cleveland school district.

Mr. Foley was one of three finalists, but the board on Feb. 20 unanimously selected Mr. Harner, a retired Army officer and regional superintendent for the Philadelphia schools.

Contract talks with Mr. Harner reached an impasse when he made it known he wanted to live outside the school district. A majority of the school board said the superintendent should live within the system s boundaries.

Mr. Harner withdrew from the contract talks on April 24.

In an e-mail yesterday to The Blade, Mr. Harner said: I wish Mr. Foley and the TPS community well, and have no further comment.

Deborah Barnett, board president, said they would work quickly to sign a contract with Mr. Foley.

We are going to work real hard with John Foley, Ms. Barnett said. He knows the district. As I ve said many times, John provides that institutional knowledge.

Mr. Foley, who lives in the Old West End, started his TPS career as a special-education teacher for severely behaviorally disabled students.

He is paid a $130,000 annual base salary, a $500 monthly car allowance, and health benefits under a contract that runs through July 31.

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

Mr. Foley yesterday said the board s decision allows him to plan long-term for the 29,400-student system.

I think when you re interim, you are always wondering how long you have to put a plan in place, he said. As the superintendent, we can look at making permanent decisions [and] provide a focus.

The school board convened at 8 a.m. yesterday and met in private for nearly an hour.

When they returned from the executive session, board member Robert Torres made a motion to suspend the superintendent search until January and possibly extend the interim contract with Mr. Foley.

None of his fellow board members would second the motion.

After the meeting, Ms. Fisher said the board wasted $50,000, referring to fees and expenses paid to Proact Search Inc., the Milwaukee firm the board hired for $29,000 plus up to $20,000 in expenses to find a new superintendent.

I question why this board fears change and addressing our 19 failing schools, she said. I think Dr. Harner was going to do that.

Ms. Fisher also said Mr. Foley did not have the full support of the board when it voted in February to negotiate with Mr. Harner.

We shouldn t have started a search if we were going to pick our local guy, she said.

As late as Wednesday, Mr. Harner said he would be willing to restart negotiations with the board, but that his demand to live outside the district had not changed.

Mr. Harner told The Blade last week he agreed to a lower-than-desired salary in exchange for permission to live outside the TPS district so his daughter could attend the only school in the area that would meet her need for advanced placement courses.

He said Sylvania Northview High School is the only school in the area that has the advanced placement courses that would allow his 16-year-old daughter to continue in her international baccalaureate program.

In an e-mail yesterday to The Blade, Mr. Harner said: I knew there wasn t an IB program. We were looking at what was offered in advanced placement since a good bit of the IB overlaps with AP.

He e-mailed the board s search consultant March 27 that he intended to withdraw from the contract talks because of a me, too agreement that would cap his compensation to what Mr. Sanders was paid as TPS superintendent.

Mr. Harner stayed in the negotiations and in an e-mail on March 30 demanded $180,000 a year, annual salary increases of 2.5 percent, $750-a-month car allowance, an 11 percent annuity, full moving expenses, and temporary lodging for him and his family for up to three months.

In the same e-mail on March 30, Mr. Harner wrote: First and foremost, I do not want my daughter in TPS so that she does not become a victim of district politics. My two children were victims before.

With the administrator union issues and angst about my salary and compensation, I want to be able to live outside the city.

The board and Mr. Harner eventually agreed on $158,800 for his base salary plus benefits but could not agree on the residency requirement, Mr. Harner said.

Ms. Fisher is the only board member to say Mr. Harner should have been allowed to live outside the district.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:imessina@theblade.comor 419-724-6171.



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