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Published: Friday, 10/26/2007

Toledo school board hopefuls engage in lively debate

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The seven candidates for the Toledo Board of Education field questions during the debate at DeVeaux Middle School.
The seven candidates for the Toledo Board of Education field questions during the debate at DeVeaux Middle School.
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The seven candidates for two seats on the Toledo Board of Education last night gave voters concrete answers to some tough questions facing the district during a lively debate in West Toledo.

A packed auditorium at DeVeaux Junior High heard some familiar arguments as the school board hopefuls fielded questions on a variety of topics, including overcrowding in the district's newly built schools, safety, teachers' compensation and hiring, military recruitment, uniforms, and academics.

The 91-year-old John Bulldog Rust, a write-in candidate who wore his trademark red, white, and blue-striped top hat, at times stole the stage.

Mr. Rust struggled to hear most of the questions, but drew applause and sometimes laughter for his thunderous and passionate answers. "John Bulldog Rust!" he shouted during his opening statement with a pump of his fist into the air. "I am for the people. Yes, I am old, but I'm not scared. I am for the people."

Mr. Rust initially declined the invitation to the forum but agreed Monday.

The other six candidates are:

•Cheryl Catlin, a graphic and Web designer who has been critical of the district's performance and test scores.

•Jack Ford, former Toledo mayor, four-term Toledo councilman, and state representative, who was appointed to the school board in June to fill the remainder of the seat vacated by Deborah Barnett.

•Ted Jobe, who retired in 2005 after 36 years as a social studies and history teacher at South Toledo's Libbey High.

•Harold Mosley, a 27-year Toledo police veteran now assigned to the department's special victims unit.

•Chris Myers, a University of Michigan Web master who unsuccessfully ran for the board in November, 2005.

•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.

Most of the candidates fell on the same side of yes or no questions posed to them in the final round of the debate, but there was clearly division among who supported asking voters to approve a levy in 2008, charter schools, and requiring parents to do mandatory volunteer work.

Mr. Ford, Mr. Mosley, and Mr. Rust said they supported a new levy, while the others answered no to the question.

Mr. Rust, Mr. Myers, and Ms. Catlin support public funding for charter schools, as is the case in Ohio. The other candidates answered no.

Asked whether he would support Saturday school as detention, Mr. Jobe answered: "Saturday and Sunday."

Mr. Myers was the only candidate against Saturday school detention. He said he wanted public input before making a final decision, "so until then it's a no," he said.

Ms. Catlin was alone in supporting a "strict dress code" for teachers.

She and Mr. Rust were the only two who said teachers should be required to live within the city of Toledo.

Mr. Myers and Mr. Mosley opposed mandatory parent volunteer hours while the other five supported it.

Throughout the 90-minute event, Mr. Myers plugged his technology and education background, Mr. Mosley stuck to his campaign platform of making schools safer, and Mr. Jobe stressed his years in the classroom as a strength.

Mr. Jobe said the first policy he would eliminate is the rule that calls for a student to be failed after five unexcused absences. "As a teacher, I never obeyed that rule," he said after the debate.

All the candidates blamed poor planning for the overcrowding the district now has in some of its new buildings.

"It looks very clear that the planning did not get it right," Mr. Ford said.

Ms. Catlin and Mr. Jobe both called for the construction program to be stopped.

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



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