5 seek to be TPS superintendent

1 candidate is internal, 2 local, 2 from other districts in Ohio

  • Durant


  • The deadline to apply for the interim superintendent position at Toledo Public Schools closed Friday, with five candidates submitting applications.

    Of the candidates, one is internal, two more are local, and the other two are from Ohio districts outside the Toledo metro area. They are bidding to replace departing Superintendent Jerome Pecko, whose contract expires July 31.

    Applicants are TPS Assistant Superintendent Romules Durant; Oregon City Schools Superintendent Michael Zalar; Xenia Community Schools Superintendent Deborah Piotrowski; Cleveland Heights-University Heights Schools Superintendent Douglas Heuer, and Catherine Smith, a former TPS teacher and administrator who spent recent years teaching in Florida.

    The Toledo Board of Education opened up applications for the position on March 1, and the deadline was 4:30 p.m. Friday. The short timeline and low-key approach — the board only advertised the position on its Web site — had only garnered one application as of Thursday.

    Board President Brenda Hill said she was pleasantly surprised that five candidates applied, and that the position garnered interest outside the region.

    “It’s still good to know that people do want to work for us and we have a choice of applicants,” she said.

    Mr. Pecko announced at a special board meeting earlier this year that he would not accept a new contract after his three-year term runs out July 31. He had said before the board meeting that he wanted to stay with the district, but only if he had board support.

    Whoever the district hires as an interim could be made permanent if that person is successful, Ms. Hill has said. The board president has also expressed a preference for an internal candidate, but said the board wouldn’t preclude external candidates.

    The only internal candidate is Mr. Durant, a member of a crop of young top TPS administrators who have taken prominent leadership roles within the Pecko administration and served as the public face of many of the district’s initiatives in recent years.


    Mr. Durant, 37, is by far the youngest of the candidates. He’s been with the district since 1999, serving as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal — including a stint at Riverside Elementary — before moving to district administration. Then-Superintendent John Foley promoted Mr. Durant to assistant superintendent of elementary education in 2008 to replace Richard Jackson.

    The East Toledoan has a doctorate of education from the University of Toledo, where he played football as an undergraduate. Mr. Durant often presents data analyses for the district at public events; adorning his office walls are whiteboards covered with internal test scores to track student progress.

    He has also focused on mentorship and leadership programs for district students, particularly in high-poverty neighborhoods. He was the catalyst for the active Student African American Brotherhood chapter and its sister program Young Women of Excellence, and often talks about the importance of building strong peer leaders.

    Mr. Durant got a vote of confidence in early March from colleague Jim Gault, district chief academic officer, who tweeted his support for Mr. Durant as the next superintendent.

    Mr. Durant did not return calls requesting comment.

    Requests for comments from Mr. Zalar, Mr. Heuer, and Ms. Piotrowski on Friday afternoon also went unanswered.


    Ms. Piotrowski was one of two finalists for the Rossford superintendent position, but the Rossford Board of Education ultimately chose Dan Creps, a principal in the Perrysburg district.


    Mr. Heuer has been superintendent of the suburban Cleveland district since 2009.


    Mr. Zalar has been Oregon’s superintendent since 2008. Before that he was principal of Clay High School.

    His contract with the Oregon district runs through July, 2014. Last year, he was a finalist for the superintendent position in Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools, a 7,000-student district northeast of Columbus.

    Two years ago, an 11.3 percent salary increase the Oregon board granted him became an issue during the November, 2011, school board election.

    Catherine Smith, 54, spent more than a decade in Toledo Public Schools as a teacher, dean of students, and curriculum specialist for the Bowsher feeder pattern.

    After a stint as principal in Sandusky County’s Gibsonburg school district, Ms. Smith spent time in school administrative roles in Florida.

    She took an early retirement in Florida and recently returned to Toledo.

    Ms. Smith said she applied to the position because Toledo was where she started her career, and she felt with her varied levels of education experience she had something to offer.

    “I have a lot of regard for what Toledo Public schools did for me, and I think it’s a great place to educate a student,” she said.

    “I just want to give back some of the things I was given early in my career.”

    Ms. Smith said she was with the district when it had more than 40,000 students — about twice its size now — and says she feels Toledo Public Schools has had a string of bad luck but is still a good school system.

    The board will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday to consider the applications. Ms. Hill said that because the board has five candidates to consider, a decision will not likely be made at that meeting.

    Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.