Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner weighed in again yesterday on the state of Toledo Public Schools, promoting his former political rival for the school board's vacant seat and proclaiming that the district soon will need taxpayers to approve a new tax levy.
Speaking before reporters at Riverside Elementary in North Toledo, Mr. Finkbeiner said former Toledo Mayor Jack Ford is the best candidate among the five who will be interviewed this morning for the position.
"I think he is the absolute ideal person," Mr. Finkbeiner said. "He has been under pressure, not only as mayor, but on City Council and the state legislature."
Mr. Ford, who was the city's mayor from January, 2002, to January, 2006, when he was succeeded by Mr. Finkbeiner, applied last week to fill the spot vacated by the resignation of Deborah Barnett. Mr. Ford could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The other four people being interviewed to complete the term are:
•Richard Brown III of Hamilton Street, a declared candidate for the school board in the November election who is a staff auditor for Toledo City Council overseeing the city's sewer overhaul project.
•Francis Dumbuya of Applewood Drive, owner of Personnel, Achievement, and Professional Development LLC, a company in the Old West End that provides development in educational management.
•Patricia Henry of Rockspring Road, president of the City of Toledo Civil Service Commission.
•Lisa Sobecki, president of the Ottawa River Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization, chairman of the district's Parent Congress, and a member of the Point Place Educational Task Force.
Interviews begin at 8 a.m. today and board President Steven Steel has said they will be open to the public.
The terms of Larry Sykes and Mr. Barnett are up for election in November. Mr. Sykes has not said whether he will seek re-election.
The mayor also said he met yesterday morning with James Hoffman, president of KeyBank; Tom Palmer, an attorney and member of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board of directors, and Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, president of the University of Toledo, to discuss the state of Toledo Public Schools.
Their concern for the 29,500-student school system is rooted in the belief that the area's future depends on the district, the University of Toledo, and the city of Toledo, the mayor said.
"Fortunately, this is the closest, in my quarter century on [City] Council and as mayor, that it's been understood how important that three-pronged relationship is," Mr. Finkbeiner said.
Regarding a levy, Mr. Finkbeiner said, the school system will need one "sooner rather than later."
The district must reduce its budget by about $11.7 million for the 2007-2008 school year. A five-year forecast approved by the board Tuesday night showed a balanced budget for next school year assuming the implementation of cutbacks, but an $18.43 million deficit for the 2008-2009 school year, a $44.7 million deficit in 2009-2010, and $96 million in 2010-2011.
Mr. Finkbeiner made the comments about Mr. Ford and a levy in response to questions from reporters.
He was in front of the elementary school at Chase and Chicago streets yesterday to read a proclamation regarding gardens that students created outside the building.
"You have done something here that I haven't seen too many community schools do, and that's make your own front yard and side yard look beautiful," the mayor said.
The school is flanked by boarded-up houses, including one that faces the main entrance.
Principal Romules Durant said the garden is a small part of a larger effort to beautify a neighborhood that has long been plagued by urban blight.
"Schools are the cornerstone of a community, so if the school builds and becomes better, the community will build and become better," Mr. Durant said.
Seven nearby abandoned houses have been torn down in the past 1 1/2 years, he added.
Fifteen students, all of whom are in a special education class, worked on the garden with donated materials beginning in October.
Teacher Gary Harvey said he included math and science lessons in creating the landscaping plans and planting the flowers.
"It was Mr. Durant's idea that we make it look a lot nicer," Mr. Harvey said. "We had an island out here before that looked really dumpy."
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