Vasquez keeps seat on board of education

Newcomers Taylor-Gerken, Varwig claim other two spots

11/6/2013
BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Taylor-Gerken
Taylor-Gerken

The lone incumbent running for re-election on the Toledo Board of Education won, and he will be joined by two new school board members.

PHOTO GALLERY: TPS' renewal Levy Party

RELATED CONTENT: Full election results

Varwig
Varwig

Bob Vasquez, 61, a former school board president, won the most votes and retained his seat, despite losing Democratic Party and labor support. Polly Taylor-Gerken, an endorsed Democrat who twice failed in bids for city council, finally prevailed in politics and won a seat. She was joined by Chris Varwig, a longtime TPS volunteer and parent advocate, who squeezed out the third spot ahead of Perry Lefevre.

Vasquez
Vasquez

Board President Brenda Hill decided not to seek re-election, and Larry Sykes opted to pursue a seat on Toledo City Council. 

Voters could choose three candidates from a field of eight, selecting a majority on the five-person board.

Mr. Vasquez, his voice nearly gone because of laryngitis, still could be gratified with the win.

“I feel good because I think it shows that the voters were supportive of me and my past leadership,” he said.

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 districtwide K-8 buildings.

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

He said his re-election showed that voters felt he showed strong leadership during tough times in Toledo Public Schools. Even better, he said, was that the district’s renewal levy passed the same night he was re-elected, a sign the community had faith in the district, but also that Toledo had high expectations for its schools.

Ms. Taylor-Gerken had the second-most votes. She said she felt voters like her deep roots in the community and her experience, as she spent 30 years in TPS, working her way through college as a secretary and eventually becoming a school psychologist. She retired in 2009.

She too said her win was even sweeter since the levy also passed.

“The real winner is Dr. Romules Durant in passing that levy,” she said.

Ms. Taylor-Gerken as a candidate has been a strong and vocal supporter of Mr. Durant and said she looks forward to working with and supporting him. Ms. Taylor-Gerken is married to Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken.

Ms. Varwig, who could not be reached after votes were in, claimed the third spot on the board.

In the evening, she was among TPS levy supporters at the downtown library, but early vote totals had her neck-and-neck with Mr. Lefevre.

Ms. Varwig has strong ties to the school district, serving as a volunteer and parent advocate for years, and serving for a time as president of the Parent Congress.

She gained endorsements from numerous labor unions, including the teachers’ union. 

Ms. Varwig is a registered Republican, but she says her educational views align more with the Democratic Party.

Failing to win seats were Mr. Lefevre, the Rev. Randall Parker III, Aji Green, Tina Henold, and Darryl Fingers.

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

He was endorsed by the Democratic Party and had strong labor support, including an endorsement from the Toledo Federation of Teachers.

Mr. Parker is the pastor of Manifested Word Church and president of Glenwood Elementary’s parent-teacher organization.

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

For Mr. Green, this is his third failed attempt at elected office, as he also ran unsuccessfully for city council in 2011 and school board in 2009.

Mr. Fingers, an endorsed Republican, also ran unsuccessfully in 2011 for the District 1 City Council seat.

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