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Published: Wednesday, 3/24/2010

Jack Ford vows to save Toledo's Libbey H.S.


Libbey High School will be saved at least for another year if Toledo school board member Jack Ford has his way.

Mr. Ford said he would search for money in the budget and tweak other proposed cuts to come up with the $1.3 million that closing Libbey would save the school district.

Some see the aging school as a bright light for students in an economically downtrodden neighborhood.

"It's an anchor for that South Toledo neighborhood. The kids there are trying to make a comeback," said Mr. Ford, who was Toledo's mayor from 2002-2006. "The problem is that it's not on the long-term facilities construction plan, but I feel that at this point in time it would create such a hole in that community."

Mr. Ford said he would look for savings in food service and push for more across-the-board cuts. It's unclear if those savings could be sustained over time and if the fix would be only temporary.

Toledo Public Schools administration placed Libbey on a list of cuts to save the district a total of $17.5 million. The Toledo Board of Education is facing a $30 million budget deficit next fiscal year and plans to debate and finalize a list of budget cuts at a special April 1 meeting.

The proposal, drafted in the form of a budget resolution, was given to school board members Tuesday night. They chose not to vote on it and scheduled the special meeting.

Under the draft resolution, Libbey would be closed whether or not Toledo voters pass a 0.75 percent levy on earned income to raise $18.1 million annually.

Libbey parents and alumni have come out in force to protest the closing of the school, which has been placed on the chopping block several times in the past.

Each time, parents and activists have said the school's historic and emotional value to the neighborhood far outweigh any budget savings.

School board vice president Lisa Sobecki said Wednesday morning she thinks the community deserves to either have Libbey closed this year or saved for the long term.

The problem is that enrollment has declined over time and that fact makes the school ineligible for state matching funds for multi-million dollar school renovations, Ms. Sobecki said.

"Either cut it or put a stake in the ground and have a plan to make it vital," she said. "Quit saying you're going to close Libbey every year. If you save it this year, then what are you going to do to keep it as the anchor in the future?"

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