Blade Editor David Kushma’s powerful Aug. 29 op-ed column, “Willingly or not, TPS will change,” points out that Toledo Public Schools is at a tipping point. Failing to act means more students leaving for charter and suburban schools, and a downward spiral of more layoffs, school closings, and levy losses.
In writing that the board needs to “take on” the district’s unions, Mr. Kushma identifies the right challenge but prescribes the wrong approach.
When I was first elected to the school board in 1997, Superintendent Merrill Grant was “taking on” the unions. He made unconditional demands for change, and the teachers authorized a strike.
The newly-elected board stepped back from cliff-wrestling and instead engaged in hard-nosed negotiation. For a number of years, there were no raises, the unions agreed to health-care concessions, we reformed the curriculum and increased test scores, and TPS passed levies.
“Taking on” the teachers union is somewhat like picking a fight with a bear. You’ll probably lose, but even if you don’t, you’ll end up a bloody mess.
When it comes to protecting her teachers, Toledo Federation of Teachers President Fran Lawrence is cold-blooded and tenacious. But she’s also smart, understands numbers and politics, and is ferociously committed to excellence in education standards. She knows when she needs to cut a deal and how to do it.
So rather than take her on, the school board needs leadership and vision to work out a grand deal.
How many teachers do we need to have effective class sizes? What does it cost to restore sports, busing, and security? What reforms are needed in the way the schools are run? How much can taxpayers stomach in a levy if these are the results they’re promised? Given that answer, how big do concessions need to be to make this happen?
One last question: Does the board have the leadership to make this happen?
Peter R. Silverman
Many burdens put on teachers
I am now substitute-teaching. I agree that many things in the educational system must change, but when David Kushma links student performance and teacher evaluation, there is a mantra that many trained and caring teachers say: If I am responsible for student performance, then parents need to prepare their children to be ready to perform and to instill in them that learning is an important part of their life and should be valued.
In Ohio, most teachers now need a master's degree. Is putting the burden solely on teachers to pay for the ills of the economy equitable?
Maybe The Blade could take the money it is realizing from recently raising the price of the daily paper, contribute it to local school districts in financial straits, and share the burden.
Don't overlook parents' input
The Ohio state report card showed that Pickett School had a “frustrating result” after completely replacing its staff two years ago (“State places 9 TPS schools in ‘academic emergency,' ” Aug. 28). I predicted that radical change would not work.
Thomas Friedman discusses the documentary Waiting for Superman in his Aug. 28 op-ed column, “Movie challenges people to put kids first.” I agree that well-trained teachers work in the classroom to raise student achievement.
You suggest using Race to the Top funds to, among other things, “evaluate low-performing schools and disadvantaged students” (“Running a good race,” editorial, Aug. 29).
In his op-ed column, David Kushma cites the district's need to look at compensation systems and issues such as “linking teacher evaluation to student performance.” I hope he means what the students are doing 10 years down the line, to determine how productive they have become for society.
At least Mr. Friedman says we must have support from “more-involved parents.” Without the positive input of parents, schools will never be what people want. All the money in the world won't help.
Raymond A. Heitger
Put more focus on TPS positives
Why did the headline on your Aug. 28 article about TPS focus on the negative instead of the positive? Instead of “State places 9 TPS schools in ‘academic emergency,' ” why not “State places 3 more TPS schools in ‘excellent' rating' ”?
While TPS added two schools to the academic emergency category, it also added three schools to the highest level, for a net gain of one.
I wish the positive would be the lead story occasionally, as opposed to the constant negativity you harbor for TPS.
Highlight what works in schools
Your headline should have focused on the eight schools that are rated excellent, instead of the few schools that did not reach their goals last year.
Your focus on the negative perpetuates the belief of those who don't know better that TPS is failing. There are many successful schools in the district. At Birmingham School, students and staff worked hard for many years to gain an excellent rating. They should be recognized and celebrated.
Our students, parents, and community deserve the same encouragement and support you give other districts.
TPS has much good news too
We never read about the great stories at TPS, such as Start High School being rated for the second year in a row as “excellent,” along with seven other TPS schools, or Bowsher High School receiving an “effective” rating, like 29 others.
You say the levy TPS seeks will be the biggest levy ever asked to be approved by voters. What you have not said is that TPS has had no new money in a decade.
The negativity is awful in this community. Our children are hearing it on TV and radio, and reading it in the classroom in The Blade.
As a community, we need to make sure that every child is guaranteed the right to have an education. Don't turn your back on Toledo's children. They deserve the same right to an education as you had.
Come clean with voters
It's not enough that Toledo Public Schools officials say they “found” $824,000 because of an “oversight” in their budget (“District discovers an extra $824,000,” Aug. 25).
If they don't explain what happened, voters might “overlook” voting for the new taxes, because we won't be able to “find” the money in our budgets.
William L. Burkhardt
Windfall won't curry support
TPS discovers an extra $824,000. An additional $10.8 million is coming from the federal government (“Ohio wins $400M in school aid,” Aug. 25).
My advice: Audit your books, spend your extra money wisely, budget your money better, and don't even think about putting a levy on the ballot. I won't vote for it.
TPS ‘scam' won't work
What a cheap, cowardly, scam TPS is doing to Toledo. You have fleeced children just to get taxpayers to bail them out.
Now you know how I will vote on the levy.
City schools are shameful
Toledo Federation of Teachers President Francine Lawrence, the Toledo Board of Education, and the administration of every one of Toledo's Public Schools are a disgrace to students, parents, and the city.
This goes back to the asinine decisions to close DeVilbiss and Macomber/Whitney high schools, which may have been the only TPS high schools worth keeping open or that taught students what they needed to attain vocational careers or go on to college.
TPS graduates can't raise families on minimum wage jobs as burger flippers, which is about the only job a recent TPS high school graduate is prepared to perform, with a lot of remedial training.
Anyone who disagrees that TPS high school students need a mandatory curriculum of four years of English, math (including calculus and statistics), and science; two years of computer science, and ethics, and not less than three years of social studies, is clueless, like the myopic voters who rubber stamp every bozo candidate the Democrats nominate.
James A. Adams