8 candidates seek 3 positions on Toledo Board of Education


Eight candidates are running for three seats on the Toledo Board of Education in Tuesday’s election.

At least two seats will be filled by new school board members.

Board President Brenda Hill decided not to seek re-election, and Larry Sykes opted to pursue a seat on Toledo City Council. Voters can choose three candidates from the field.

Bob Vasquez, 61, a former school board president, is the lone incumbent in the race.

He was appointed to the board in 2008 and was elected for a full term in 2009. He has pushed to bring back athletic programs and busing for students and a performance audit of the district.

He also helped develop Toledo Public Schools’ transformation plan, which eliminated junior high schools and created district-wide K-8 buildings.

He said he wants to continue with the next phase of the transformation plan, which would turn TPS high schools into thematic programs.

Mr. Vasquez lost support from unions and the Democratic Party after leading contract negotiations in 2011 that extracted wage and benefit concessions from employees.

Perry Lefevre, 53, teaches in the Sylvania school district and is president of that district’s teachers’ union.

Mr. Lefevre advocates for improving first-grade literacy skills, wants more resources and better marketing for career tech programs, and would like to develop young leaders by providing them role models. Improvements in those areas would increase the district’s graduation rate, he says.

Mr. Lefevre was endorsed by the Democratic Party and has received strong labor support, including an endorsement from the Toledo Federation of Teachers.

The Rev. Randall Parker III, 38, is the pastor of Manifested Word Church and president of Glenwood Elementary’s parent-teacher organization.

Mr. Parker wants to see school staff members build stronger bonds in the neighborhoods around their buildings.

He also wants more community-based programs in school, such as GED courses taught by University of Toledo instructors at some TPS schools.

Mr. Parker is endorsed by the Democratic Party.

Polly Taylor-Gerken, 53, spent 30 years in TPS, working her way through college as a secretary and eventually becoming a school psychologist. She retired in 2009.

Ms. Taylor-Gerken argues that she is a uniquely qualified school board candidate because of that experience. She says TPS is on the verge of major improvements and wants to expand community partnership programs.

Ms. Taylor-Gerken is married to Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken. She has twice unsuccessfully run for City Council. Ms. Taylor-Gerken was endorsed by the Democratic Party and has received strong labor union support.

Chris Varwig, 45, has strong ties to the school district, serving as a volunteer and parent advocate for years.

She points to her career in school advocacy and ability to build partnerships and increase parent involvement as reasons she should be elected. She admits to being a TPS cheerleader but says she’s also able to hold administrators accountable for their performance.

Ms. Varwig has gained endorsements from numerous labor unions, including the teachers’ union.

She is a registered Republican who asked to screen for the Democratic Party endorsement but was denied.

Tina Henold, 47, is a political newcomer, a Christian conservative who home-schooled her three children and advocates school choice.

Ms. Henold wants to focus spending in the classroom. She was an advocate for the performance audit, and supports changes that would give teachers more freedom in instruction. She says she believes in fiscal responsibility and says taxpayers don’t have a voice on the current school board.

Ms. Henold drew an endorsement from the Chamber of Commerce.

Aji Green, 38, ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2011 and school board in 2009.

He has a child in TPS and his wife is a teacher for the district. Mr. Green says he’s long volunteered and advocated for TPS.

He wants the district to improve its customer service for parents. Mr. Green also calls for the city and TPS to collaborate on combating blight, wants TPS to bring back busing for students, and proposes redrawing school boundaries to create more integrated schools.

Mr. Green, a Democrat, has received some labor support for his campaign.

Darryl Fingers, 57, is the endorsed Republican in the race. He ran unsuccessfully in 2011 for the District 1 City Council seat.

Mr. Fingers says the city should spend more money on the public school system and says he’s a strong advocate in favor of property tax levies for TPS.

He also favors longer school days, more after-school activities, more parental involvement, and mandatory foreign language courses for students.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com, 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.