The long-standing issue of not enough minority representation in Toledo Public Schools' building program may be improved as the district heads into the final segment of the plan.
The concern has been that some of the minority-owned contractors and small businesses were not able to bid as prime contractors, and the district could not require those prime contractors to use minority businesses as subcontractors.
As a result, minorities and women have been lacking in the district's $640 million Building for Success effort, which is mostly funded through the Ohio School Facilities Commission. The district's goal was to have 20 percent minority work force and 5 percent female participation.
A report from Bowling Green State University that looked at participation from July through September, 2008, concluded the district was at 6.31 percent minority business and 4.36 female, which were both increases from previous counts, but not close to the district goals.
It appears the district can break up some of the construction work into smaller jobs, opening up the bid process for some of the smaller businesses.
"One of the things the district can do is unbundle these contracts to allow minorities and small businesses to have access and the ability to bid for them," said Larry Sykes, a former TPS board member, who organized a meeting yesterday that drew more than 50 people.
Among the attendees were facilities commission Executive Director Michael Shoemaker, State Rep. Edna Brown (D., Toledo), school board members Lisa Sobecki and Bob Vasquez, other district officials, and some local minority contractors.
Before the meeting, most were under the impression the district was not allowed to break up the projects. "We anticipate we'll have the opportunity to break the contracts down into smaller segments," said John Gilliland, the district's chief business manager.
"We see a desire by the OSFC to do that, and here at TPS, we have the desire to do that."
The issue will be discussed further, but Mr. Gilliland said the goal is to move "just as quick as we can" to open the process and make it more inclusive.
The final segment of the building program includes new elementary schools for Beverly, Birmingham, Ottawa River, Longfellow, Marshall, McKinley, Old Orchard, Pickett, and Riverside; and the renovation of Scott High School.