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Published: Thursday, 1/6/2011

Vasquez, Sobecki retain top Toledo Public Schools posts

After a year of massive budget cuts and two failed levies, the Toledo Board of Education Thursday re-elected its same slate of leaders to run the meetings and set the policy direction for the next school year.

Bob Vasquez was chosen again to be president and Lisa Sobecki again as vice president by 4-1 votes. In each case, board member Larry Sykes voted against the candidates.

Mr. Sykes has been a frequent critic of Mr. Vasquez and Ms. Sobecki, saying the two work behind the scenes and do not keep the rest of the board informed of their initiatives.

“I'm a little tired of hearing and reading in the paper what we're doing,” he said.

Mr. Vasquez said he was available to any school board member to talk about any initiative.

It's been a difficult year for Toledo Public Schools and its students.

After a May levy failed, the district had to cut the budget by $39 million, including eliminating bus service for about 5,000 students, cutting middle school and freshman sports, and laying off about 400 employees.

A November levy also failed, and the school board now faces a $38 million deficit and must make more cuts, including possibly closing or renting out some newly built schools.

Mr. Sykes nominated fellow board member and former Toledo Mayor Jack Ford as president and board member Brenda Hill to be vice president.

Mr. Ford declined, and Ms. Hill said she needed another year of seasoning before taking on such a leadership role.

Before the election, Mr. Ford wanted answers from Mr. Vasquez about how he planned to attack the problem of chronically underperforming schools, including Pickett Academy, Robinson and Jones middle schools, and Scott High, among others.

Mr. Vasquez said recent federal money targeting such schools would be used to expand a successful summer school program called “reciprocal teaching” that allows students to take part in deciding what they are taught in class.

“The next step is to present that to the board,” he said.

Mr. Ford was skeptical and said he had heard such promises before and that if throwing money at a problem was the answer, then it would be solved by now.

“To me, that is not an answer. … Are we just guessing?” he asked.

Jim Gault, interim chief academic officer, answered that under the method, about 75 percent of remedial students in the summer program improved one or more notches in testing. He called it “tremendous results.”

“First I've heard of it,” Mr. Ford said.

Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick

at: ckirkpatrick@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.

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