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Published: Tuesday, 6/15/2010

TPS eyeing nontraditional candidates to lead schools

BY CHRISTOPHER D. KIRKPATRICK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Board of Education President Bob Vasquez said Monday night the five-member board would interview several "nontraditional" superintendent candidates at a special meeting Wednesday.

That means adding "two to three" extra candidates from the corporate and higher-education worlds to the pool of three finalists, said board Vice President Lisa Sobecki.

She would not name them, saying the board wanted to confirm interview times with the candidates before identifying them.

"All board members have heard the comments from the community as a whole to look at all avenues," she said. "We have heard many, many times that the school district is like a business."

The announcement came at a special meeting after the board spent nearly four hours interviewing three "traditional" finalists and discussing their qualities in a closed session.

They were selected last week out of a group of six semifinalists.

Board members want to find someone to help to lead the beleaguered school system.

The board is still working to finalize a budget that began with a projected $30 million deficit that grew to $39 million.

The board is still in negotiations with union leadership for concessions as it tries to find the final $4 million. Layoffs are expected, and programs and services already have been cut.

Once that's done, the board then faces a projected $44 million budget for the next school year as federal stimulus dollars dry up and the state projects its own education budget cuts.

School leaders say they need to persuade the public to pass a levy in November. The public voted one down May 4, prompting cuts to services that did away with high school bus service and other programs.

Since then, there has been a buzz for a nontraditional candidate to replace Superintendent John Foley. He is scheduled to leave at the end of July.

Mr. Vasquez made waves earlier this month when he released a plan to create a commission of experts from the higher-education and corporate worlds and from the community to overhaul TPS operations.

He said the district can't afford to live year to year and from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis. Mr. Vasquez said a nontraditional superintendent might have the skills needed to implement a commission's potentially drastic reforms.

The goal would be to expand on what works and do away with what doesn't. One theme would be to expand choice within the school district, such as providing more single-gender academies, magnet schools, and other specialized programs that already have improved student performance in TPS.

The three current finalists are:

•Richard Drury, ex-superintendent of Community High School District, Wheaton, Ill.

•Deborah Hunter-Harvill, ex-superintendent of Westwood Heights School District, Flint, Mich.

•Jerome Pecko, ex-superintendent of Springfield Local Schools near Akron.

Contact Christopher D.

Kirkpatrick

at: ckirkpatrick@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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