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Published: Thursday, 4/1/2010

Toledo school board votes to save Libbey High School

BLADE STAFF

The Toledo Board of Education voted 3-2 Thursday night to try and find money in the budget to save Libbey High School.

Members all agreed that a permanent solution would need to be found or the same situation would be faced again in a year.

The motion was made by Jack Ford, who said: "I am not willing to give up on Libbey."

Board members Brenda Hill and Larry Sykes voted with him. School board president Bob Vasquez and vice president Lisa Sobecki voted against it.

Mr. Vasquez said keeping the old school open was tantamount to "torturing" the students because they deserve better facilities.

Ms. Sobecki said she has heard students say: "I deserve better technology. I deserve a roof that doesn't leak," she said. "... At the end of the day, I have to balance the budget."

After voting to save Libbey, the board approved cuts even if an upcoming levy passes. Those include layoffs and salary reductions, elimination of outdoor education, elimination of elementary summer schedules, reduction of printing costs, reduction in food service subsidy, and scaling back on freshmen sports.

If the levy does not pass, they would merge Lincoln and Stewart academies, eliminate foreign language in elementary schools, increase class size, and eliminate high school sports with low participation, among other cuts.

Earlier on Thursday, the head of the Toledo Federation of Teachers said she plans to ask her membership to approve a 1 percent salary cut and increase health care premiums to do their part to solve the budget crisis.

A tentative contract between Toledo Public Schools administrators and the 2,800-member union was reached recently. Union president Francine Lawrence said she still expects teacher layoffs but fewer than what were originally proposed.

"I was fixated on saving as many teacher positions as possible," she said. "It's not pleasant as union president."

The school district is hoping to get more than $3 million in concessions from the unions. Another union, the Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel, which has 300 members, already has ratified a similar contract.

Ms. Lawrence said she would schedule a meeting to vote on ratification of the proposed concessions sometime during the week of April 12.

This was one glimpse Thursday night of a larger package of cuts to the schools' budget and concessions from unions to close the projected $30 million budget hole for next fiscal year.

School board members started their meeting and initially went into executive session Thursday night. They decided on a series of cuts ahead of an income tax levy for schools on the May 4 ballot.



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