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Published: Thursday, 11/5/2009

Newly elected Sykes vows cooperation on TPS board

BY MEGHAN GILBERT-CUNNINGHAM
BLADE STAFF WRITER

After being away from the Toledo Public Schools board for two years, newly elected member Larry Sykes said yesterday that board consistency will help achieve the district's goals.

"We need to sign a commitment that we will not bail out - that we will finish our term and not go seek election somewhere else," said Mr. Sykes, who was elected Tuesday and will return to the board in January.

"You owe that to the people that elect you."

Mr. Sykes served from 1997 to 2007, before taking a two-year break and running this fall for one of three open seats.

He defeated Darlene Fisher, the only elected incumbent, by 844 votes, according to unofficial Lucas County vote results.

The top vote-getter was Bob

Vasquez, the board president, who received nearly 20 percent of the votes.

He was followed by incumbent Brenda Hill with 17.5 percent.

There were 10 candidates.

The others were Aji Green, Mindy Jenson, Vince Hornik, James M. Jones, John G. Bull Dog Rust, and Norman Drogmiller.

Mr. Sykes, who had a reputation as an outspoken board member during his previous terms, called the other board members yesterday to express his interest in working together.

He said the school district can benefit from new programs to make education exciting, serve better food, and prevent students from dropping out.

Ms. Fisher was elected in 2005 and was the longest-serving member on the board.

Mr. Vasquez was appointed in March, 2008, after Robert Torres resigned.

Ms. Hill has been on the board since July, when she was selected to serve the remaining months of Steven Steel's term.

Ms. Fisher declined to answer questions yesterday, but released a statement.

"I appreciate all the Toledoans who cast a vote for me yesterday with the understanding that it is important to have a leader with a clear path to transparent and honest governance related to public school reform," the statement read. "It has been my pleasure to serve in this capacity."

Board member Jack Ford said Ms. Fisher will be missed and that she did a good job.

"I'm sorry to see Ms. Fisher leave. I thought, in her own way, she brought a certain perspective to the board that was needed," Mr. Ford said.

"She questioned just about everything and she was very prepared at the committee level. A lot of people would come and just sit there."

Board Vice President Lisa Sobecki said she appreciates what Ms. Fisher contributed and said she will ask her and the other candidates to continue to support the district.

Mr. Vasquez and Ms. Hill expressed gratitude to voters.

Mr. Vasquez said he wants to create a labor-management committee to team the unions and administration to make decisions with the board.

"I believe the people on the front lines, our teachers and principals, have a lot to offer to help us make the best decisions," he said.

Ms. Hill said student retention and recruitment are key issues.

As a retired teacher, she said she is interested in helping underperforming schools and helping the district implement state education mandates.

"It's one thing to sit in the audience and watch, but once you get into it, it's an entirely different world and it's a very involved world," Ms. Hill said.

"I'm pleased the voters gave me a chance."

Contact Meghan Gilbert-Cunningham

at: mcunningham@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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