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Published: Tuesday, 5/23/2006

TPS has long, pricey parting with Sanders

My mother always said the best time to leave a party was while it was still in full swing.

Granted, "party" might not be the most accurate description of the Toledo Public School board's current mood.

Still, after flirting with other job prospects, long-suffering Eugene Sanders is now eligible to be cloaked with the title "former superintendent."

His next stop? Cleveland schools.

But until Mr. Sanders negotiates the fine points of the superintendent job he was offered there, we get him for a while longer.

This, of course, is the United States of America - where former execs can typically keep cashing checks even after turning in their exit paperwork.

And so it is that after a 3-2 board vote, Mr. Sanders officially joined the world of "consultants," a racket I probably wish I knew how to join myself.

As a consultant, Mr. Sanders (whose resignation wasn't originally intended to take effect until the end of August) still gets to collect a pot of TPS money.

The breakdown of this money pot mirrors so many other executive payouts - that is, the line-item accounting almost makes some sense, until you get to the bottom line, at which point you can't help but ask yourself: "Hey, how come someone can get so much money for leaving?"

It's one of those questions you usually get around to asking after reading a biz-page story about the Gazillion-Dollar Goodbye some corporation gives to hurry along someone's departure.

Still, when it comes to the superintendency of the Toledo Public Schools, it's not just about the money.

How do know this?

We know this because a consultant told us so.

That's right: another consultant. This one's from Milwaukee.

Nancy Noeske, president of PROACT Search, Inc., was hired by the board to help find Mr. Sanders' replacement.

Last month, she advised the board against announcing a salary range. As she explained at the time:

"The first question [applicants] ask is never about salary. They ask what the board is like It's really important for the board to work together on this, because a candidate will not take a job with a 4-1 or 3-2 vote."

(Well, hey. The board paid for that advice.

Let's hope its members - who get along so well they agreed earlier this year to seek a mediator, which I guess you could say is one variety of, um, a consultant - eventually get around to taking the Milwaukee consultant's advice.)

I've poked a lot of fun at Mr. Sanders during his almost six years at TPS. C'mon, the guy once said the goal of TPS "is to achieve as many goals as possible," adding that "each year, we target a number of indicators."

Still, he leaves pretty big shoes to fill.

Under his watch, the district's test-based performance improved and levies were passed.

As these things go, it looks as if his nearly $200,000 compensation was a bargain.

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