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Published: 10/4/2010

Group led by ex-Scott coach wants levy defeated

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A group led by former Scott High School basketball Coach Ben Williams plans to call for a vote against Toledo Public Schools' 7.8-mill operating Nov. 2 and ask TPS students to stay home Friday when a head count is taken to determine state funding.

Mr. Williams, who heads Concerned Citizens in Support of African-American Students, said the TPS Board of Education must gain credibility with voters before it can ask them for financial support.

"How are you going to have money if you lose a thousand students a year? How do you make that up on a levy every year?" he asked.

The group is to hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Frederick Douglass Community Center, 1001 Indiana Ave.

Mr. Williams, who spent 24 years at Scott High School as a teacher and coach, said that the board, through its policies and decision-making, has caused enrollment at Scott and the now-closed Libbey High School to plummet over the years. Along with enrollment, the quality of the curriculum dropped, he said.

Now, Scott is undergoing a $42 million renovation, but he fears the same problems will persist inside its refurbished walls.

In a statement, the group said it wants to see "a nationwide search begin immediately for a dynamic, black male principal that will be a leader in the pursuit of academic excellence."

It wants all Scott staff members pink-slipped and required to reapply for their jobs, and it wants Scott to return to a traditional high school "with high academic and social standards with true AP [advanced placement] and honors classes" such as Bowsher and Start high schools have.

"Basically the board and TPS have failed not only the student population in Toledo Public Schools, but it has been dehumanizing as far as the black kids in the central city," Mr. Williams said.

Contacted Sunday, Bob Vasquez, president of the school board, was critical of the group for urging students to stay home from school for even a day.

"That's using the children and their welfare to get their point across," Mr. Vasquez said, adding he didn't think the group has a point.

"I called for a committee of community leaders and that committee is moving forward," he said. "They have been meeting and they have acknowledged TPS has its challenges, and we are going to address those by completely reviewing the operations of the school system."

Mr. Williams said in addition to advocating change at Scott, his group would like to see a portion of Libbey converted to a community center. "We're not trying to be troublemakers," Mr. Williams said. "If someone doesn't step up, who do the kids have to speak for them?"

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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