The Toledo Board of Education will review Toledo Public Schools Superintendent Jerome Pecko's performance at a special meeting this evening, and may decide whether to renew his contract or begin a search for a new top administrator.
The board will meet in a closed session at 5 p.m., and members said they are not sure if they will make a decision about Mr. Pecko today. Mr. Pecko's contract expires Aug. 1, and board members admitted they had to make a determination soon, because if the board chooses not to renew his contract, a likely lengthy search for a replacement would follow.
Board President Brenda Hill said that if no decision is made today, then one would need to be made by the board's regular February meeting.
"We will have to do it pretty soon," she said. "I can't guarantee what will come out of the meeting tonight."
Mr. Pecko, 66, was hired in July, 2010, to replace John Foley. He was given a three-year contract that was to pay him $175,000 annually. Before Toledo, he was superintendent of the Springfield and Barberton systems, and an educator in Akron City Schools.
Since he was hired, TPS moved to a district-wide K-8 model, revamped its special education delivery system, won large concessions from employee unions, and instituted several reform efforts. But the district also failed to pass two levies, and slipped a ranking on state report cards. Passage of a levy and improving TPS report card ratings were among six goals in Mr. Pecko's contract.
Mr. Pecko said he wasn't necessarily expecting the board to make a decision about his future with the district tonight, but agreed it was "critically important" that a decision be made soon.
He said he wanted to stay in his role at TPS, but only if he has the board's backing. He said he thinks changes made over his tenure will soon start to produce results in academic performance improvements.
"If the board thinks that Pecko is doing a lousy job, then maybe they need to go in a new direction," he said. "I'm hoping that it's just the opposite of that. My goal is to try and do something that will improve the district over time."
Bob Vasquez, who was board president when Mr. Pecko was hired, said he was leaning toward renewing Mr. Pecko's contract, and hoped a decision would be made today.
Most board members declined to say if they have decided whether Mr. Pecko should stay or a replacement be sought.
If Mr. Pecko is not retained, the board will have to decide whether to conduct a broad search or promote from within the ranks, which includes a group of young administrators at the district level.
Board member Larry Sykes said that he hoped the board would move quickly and decisively, to avoid a repeat of the search to replace Mr. Foley.
Mr. Foley announced in December, 2009, that he would resign in July of 2010, but a search firm wasn't hired until March, and Mr. Pecko was hired just weeks before Mr. Foley stepped down.
The other finalist for the position in 2010 dropped out, saying he did not want to work with what appeared to be a fractured board.
"I hope this board would be responsible and not put this community through that zoo-like atmosphere," Mr. Sykes said.
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