Election season for the Toledo Board of Education unofficially began Tuesday, when the first candidate filed her petitions to run for one of three open seats in the November general election.
Tina Henold, a political outsider, filed petition papers at the Lucas County Board of Elections with, she said, more than 800 signatures. She hopes to fill one of the seats held by Brenda Hill, Bob Vasquez, and Larry Sykes.
Ms. Henold of 1507 Hagley Rd. in West Toledo was among a group of people who successfully advocated for a performance audit of Toledo Public Schools. She has frequented most school board and committee meetings in recent months.
She lamented the district's low graduation rate and what she calls a focus on standardized tests. She said parents are frustrated with TPS and the board.
“I just think the kids really do deserve better,” she said, “and I think that if somebody gets on the board that is not interested in their political career, that isn't interested in building their own kingdom, that perhaps opens the opportunity to be really bold and say what they really think.”
Ms. Henold, who calls herself a Christian conservative, home schooled her children because her family did extended missionary work in Romania.
While she focuses on parent engagement and other traditional school board topics, Ms. Henold also brings a strain of political flavor uncommon to the board. She advocates school choice, such as vouchers for private education or charter schools. And she says public schools should teach creationism in science classrooms alongside evolution, though she said that and other social issues are not at the top of her agenda.
At least one board seat will be held by someone new after the election, as Mr. Sykes has filed to run for City Council. Ms. Hill declined to comment last week when asked whether she plans to run for re-election.
Mr. Vasquez does plan to run. He was appointed to the board in 2008 and served as board president during parts of 2009 through the end of 2011. Under that tenure, TPS adopted K-8 buildings district-wide, and secured financial concessions from labor unions.
The K-8 buildings were part of a TPS “transformation plan,” and Mr. Vasquez said he wants to see the rest of the plan implemented, including the conversion of high schools into thematic schools. Mr. Vasquez also touts TPS improvements as a potentially driving force in redevelopment of the city.
“It's about economics,” he said. “If we can raise our score for the district, I think the whole city will benefit.”
Three other people have pulled petition papers as of Tuesday afternoon.
Perry Lefevre, who lives in the Arlington neighborhood in South Toledo, is a social studies teacher at Northview High School in the Sylvania school district, and is president of its teachers' union, the Sylvania Education Association.
He's spent nearly three decades in school classrooms, and called himself a “strong advocate for public education.”
“I want to be involved and I want to see if I can use my expertise to make a difference,” he said.
Aji Green and Arthur Henry IV did not return calls Tuesday requesting comment. Mr. Green unsuccessfully ran for City Council in 2011 and school board in 2009.
Mr. Henry, who pulled petitions for the board in 2011 but did not run, has been a member of the Lucas County Republican Central Committee and the watchdog Urban Coalition.