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Published: Wednesday, 2/25/2009

Education czar among ideas as institutions in area meet

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

To help make Toledo a lifelong learning community, it's important to instill the importance of education and possibility of college at a young age and maybe even appoint an "education czar" to lead such an effort.

Those were some of the talking points at a meeting of the minds yesterday among leadership of some of Toledo's top education institutions: the University of Toledo, Owens Community College, and Toledo Public Schools.

The boards of trustees and school board met for more than an hour yesterday at Libbey Hall on UT's main campus to discuss the partnerships they have now and where they would like to expand. It was the first such meeting of all three leadership teams. The group envisions more, with planned subcommittees of each board to delve into the issue.

"This group is willing and their hearts are in the right place," said Rick Stansley, chairman of the UT Board of Trustees. "Things that are great have to start somewhere, and this is where it starts with a meeting, with a discussion."

UT and Owens both have relationships with TPS that allow students to take college courses while in high school and have scholarship programs that allow TPS students to attend at no cost: the Owens Success and UT Guarantee programs.

TPS has a school on UT's Scott Park campus, Toledo Early College High School, where students can earn up to 60 college credits before high school graduation. Owens also holds evening classes at Rogers High School.

The question of the day was how to build upon those relationships and tackle some of the education issues in the area.

The group could look at improving high school graduation rates and college retention rates, getting rid of the need for remediation courses, and coordinating the curriculum and teaching methods in such a way that high school seniors would fit right in to college.

"It's a clear understanding that our students at TPS don't disappear at age 18 and the students at UT and Owens aren't born at age 18," Toledo Board of Education President Steve Steel said. "There has to be a transition for the students from one to the other."

The group formalized a system with subcommittees at each institution that will hold regular joint meetings, with the first such gathering to be in March.

The full group of trustees and board members plans to meet again in April. Those meetings will expand on an idea brought up yesterday of choosing a "chancellor of education for Toledo" or an "education czar" who would provide leadership and focus.

It was decided the position would be full time because of the amount of work it would require, but much needs to be done to figure out the best way to finance such a position and how the person would be chosen.

Each board was expected to bring back to its respective institution a resolution committed to "creating a pipeline of success for students in northwest Ohio" and working together to ensure they have the skills they need.

John Moore, chairman of the Owens Board of Trustees, said everyone came into the meeting ready to discuss how he or she can get more people in and through college. He said the group has a collaborative spirit that will continue to grow as members set goals and begin to work on them. "In the past, there might have been pointing fingers: 'Who is not doing their job?'•" Mr. Moore said. "You can't do that. We need to work together."

Mr. Stansley, who led the meeting, said more progress was made than he anticipated given that the meeting was the first of all three boards.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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