TPS school board approves offering of contract extension to interim Superintendent Romules Durant

Romules Durant
Romules Durant

The interim tag was all but ripped off Toledo Public Schools Superintendent Romules Durant on Tuesday.

Toledo Board of Education members voted to give Mr. Durant a three-year contract that would begin at the end of his current one-year term. The agreement must still be finalized, as terms will be negotiated between Mr. Durant and the board, which is expected to sign off on the deal at its December meeting.

“I’m just humbled,” Mr. Durant said after the vote, between hugs of congratulations from district staff and board members.

The board voted 4-0 in favor of the extension, with member Larry Sykes absent for the vote.

“I have great confidence in you,” board President Brenda Hill said while she embraced Mr. Durant.

The move to extend Mr. Durant’s contract was not unexpected, but the timing was a surprise. Rumblings among TPS staff and observers persisted throughout the district’s successful levy campaign this fall that Mr. Durant would be given a permanent spot as top TPS administrator, but board members had suggested a December review of his performance before a decision on his future would be made.

Instead, that review and decision came Tuesday night, with little advance warning. Ms. Hills said board members decided it would be unfair to offer Mr. Durant a contract in December and then leave it to a new board in January to sign off on a deal.

New board members Chris Varwig and Polly Taylor-Gerken, elected on Nov. 5, will take office in January, replacing Ms. Hill and Mr. Sykes.

That Mr. Durant led a campaign that saw voters approve a 6.5-mill, five-year tax renewal request by nearly a 2-to-1 margin surely didn’t hurt his stock among board members.

The energy and enthusiasm of the native Toledoan and graduate of Waite High School and the University of Toledo were frequently cited as reasons to support the levy.

Mr. Durant, previously an assistant superintendent in TPS, took over for Jerome Pecko on Aug. 1 after the previous superintendent’s three-year contract with the district.

The board voted on April 8 to select Mr. Durant as the district’s interim superintendent, choosing him over the other finalist, Douglas Heuer, superintendent of Cleveland Heights-University Heights Schools.

Though the board had called Mr. Durant’s one-year term an interim period, no search for a permanent position was started. Instead, the contract served more as a tryout.

Despite the interim tag, Mr. Durant said he had approached the job as if he already had a long-term contract, setting his sights on expansive goals and developing a multiyear plan for the district.

“There was never an ‘acting’ mentality,” he said.

Among his focuses will be the implementation of a Head Start grant — if won by a local collective that includes TPS — and expanding and strengthening the district’s career tech-programs. That effort got a boost Tuesday when the board approved an expansion to the district’s Toledo Technology Academy, the successful magnet school based at the former DeVilbiss High School building.

The expansion will add grades seven and eight to the high school next school year, with an expected 60-70 students in each grade.

The board also approved a resolution to hire Rudolph Libbe, a Lake Township-based contractor, to build football and track-and-field facilities at Woodward and Scott high schools.

District officials hope both are ready for the start of the 2014-15 football seasons.

Also at the meeting: Board members approved a hearing request by Ronald Spitulski, a TPS hearing officer who handled student appeals of school discipline, had been suspended by the district, and faces termination. He had requested a hearing before a referee to consider his case, though the board will make the ultimate decision.

District records show Mr. Spitulski is accused of using inappropriate language during a student suspension appeal, acting unprofessionally toward parents, failing to maintain accurate hearing records, and misplacing or not keeping audio recordings of hearings, as required by state law.