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Published: Saturday, 6/2/2007

Toledo Public School board hopefuls differ in views on possible levy

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The four people interviewed yesterday to fill the vacant Toledo Board of Education seat differed in their strength of support for a future levy, but each applicant said the district's image needs work and school-board discord needs to stop.

The board had intended to interview five finalists to succeed Deborah Barnett, who resigned effective May 25. However, Patricia Henry, president of the City of Toledo Civil Service Commission, withdrew her name yesterday morning.

The four still vying for the seat are:

•Richard Brown III, a staff auditor for Toledo City Council overseeing the city's sewer overhaul project.

•Francis Dumbuya, owner of Personnel, Achievement, and Professional Development LLC, a company in the Old West End that provides development in educational management.

•Jack Ford, Toledo's mayor from January, 2002, to January, 2006.

•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.

Each applicant was given two minutes to give a statement and then fielded one question each from the four sitting board members.

Board member Darlene Fisher - who, along with Robert Torres, last August thwarted the latest attempt to put a new TPS operating levy before voters - asked each of the applicants their positions on a levy and how they would work with a divided board.

"I support getting prepared for a levy," Mr. Ford said. "I'm not sure right now that it would pass because what I sense to be some of the perception by the public."

Mr. Ford said he would not be "on one team or the other."

"I want to just focus on what's best for the youngsters," he said.

Mr. Dumbuya was less committal than the former mayor about his support for a levy request.

"First of all we need some sound policies," he said. "We need to do things that will convince this community that we are really ready for a levy."

Mr. Dumbuya, who with his wife operates Old West End Day Care Center, has acted as spokesman for the Urban Coalition, a group represented at school board meetings monthly by about a dozen people. It has campaigned against nearly every TPS levy and already urged people to vote against the next property tax request even though none has been approved to appear on the ballot.

Mr. Dumbuya went on the offensive yesterday against Mr. Ford - even blasting his method of applying for the vacant seat.

Mr. Ford filled out a "teacher's application" at the school district's office rather than submitting a resume as did most of the other applicants, and he did not list a working telephone number. Additionally, Mr. Ford wrote the wrong address for his home on Shenandoah Road.

"I am not a politician and quite frankly, I believe the problems that the school board faces can best be solved by sound educational strategies, rather than a political approach," Mr. Dumbuya said.

Mr. Ford could not be reached later in the day to respond to Mr. Dumbuya's criticisms.

Regarding a levy, Ms. Sobecki withheld comment.

"We haven't discussed a levy, so I can't really speak fully on how I would be able to support that or not support that because I don't know the dollar amount we are talking about," she said. "We also need to work together to come together with a dollar amount to be able to go to our public with and not knowing that now, I can't speak really further on that."

She promoted herself as a parent leader in the district who has committed herself to school improvement.

"I bought a house in the school district, put my kids in the school district, and as so, I want to be part of the solution, not a part of the problem," she said.

Mr. Brown said "with the financial challenges, I would not be opposed to supporting a levy but I would also say I would be remiss to say a levy would pass with the perception of the board at this time."

He promoted his career in finance and accounting, combined with his "commitment to young people."

Whoever is selected will complete the remainder of Ms. Barnett's term, which expires Dec. 31. Mr. Brown and Ms. Sobecki are declared candidates for the office in the November election. Mr. Ford said he does not think he will run.

Mr. Dumbuya said he is unsure of running for the four-year term in November.

The school board met behind closed doors for about 20 minutes after the four interviews concluded. They plan to meet again at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Steven Steel, board president, declined to talk specifically about the candidates.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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