Advisory group starts to apply TPS audit work

Community members on board for changes

TPS board member Bob Vasquez.
TPS board member Bob Vasquez.

A long-discussed community advisory group for the implementation of a performance audit of Toledo Public Schools finally got under way Monday, though work already has started on many of the audit’s recommendations.

Consulting group Evergreen Solutions presented its first draft of its performance audit to the Toledo Board of Education in April; a revised report was submitted in June with several corrections. The final draft included more than 160 recommendations that Evergreen said could save the district more than $90 million over five years.

The Toledo Board of Education discussed for months how to include community members in the implementation process. The board finally settled on an advisory panel that includes board member Bob Vasquez, representatives from TPS administration, and community members who were selected by district officials.

Mr. Vasquez said recently that an open selection process wasn’t used for the group because that would have delayed its formation even further.

“The public has been asking for a performance audit for some time,” he said.

The group of eight includes business and labor representatives, former TPS staff, a parent and a student, and a former politician. More members could be added. Mr. Vasquez said he would leave it up to the panel to decide its final structure.

Several audit recommendations have been completed and many more are under way, TPS Treasurer Matt Cleland said. For example, the district implemented a textbook-inventory system that should save the district hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. The district now shares space at the TARTA garage on Central Avenue, cutting miles out of bus routes to save money. And TPS officials are also considering a move of central administration from the Thurgood Marshall building on Manhattan Boulevard to another building in the district.

The panel asked Mr. Cleland to provide documentation that shows where work has started, been completed, or would require negotiations with employee unions. There was also broad discussion about the panel’s role, such as whether it simply should oversee implementation or make recommendations on which items to pursue and prioritize.

Panelist Maggie Thurber, a former Lucas County Commissioner who as a blogger has pushed for a TPS performance audit, raised concern that the panel could be used as cover for the board of education to not make the hard decisions on some of the recommendations. Mr. Vasquez said he hoped the panel instead would hold the board accountable for the audit's implementation.

The panel will next meet Dec. 3.