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Published: Thursday, 10/29/2009

Longfellow gets debate at forum


Four of the nine Toledo school board candidates at a forum last night agreed that the Longfellow Elementary should be rebuilt where it is now, while two agreed with a proposed move to Bowman Park.

Some family and community members have objected to plans by Toledo Public Schools to build a new Longfellow in Bowman Park next to Start High School and the YMCA branch and to give the current site, 4112 Jackman Rd., to the city in exchange for the park land.

About 70 people attended the school board forum in DeVeaux Middle School. Three seats on the five-member board are up for election.

Those in support of rebuilding on the present site were Norman Drogmiller II, Darlene Fisher, Vince Hornik, and Larry Sykes.

Mr. Drogmiller cited public safety concerns in support of the present location. Ms. Fisher said she was concerned about transportation aspects.

Mr. Hornik agreed with the present site if it could built with the same design planned for the park. Mr. Sykes said there have been problems when elementary and junior high schools are built next to high schools.

Aji Green and Brenda Hill said they supported the park site. Mr. Green said children would have access to more resources at Bowman. Ms. Hill said most parents prefer the park-like location.

James Jones said the decision should be decided based on a survey of the community. Robert Vasquez and John Bull Dog Rust were undecided. Candidate Mindy Jenson was not in attendance.

The candidates split on whether they would support a levy request if the district faces a deficit in 2010-11. They were asked for a simple yes or no.

Answering yes were Ms. Hill, Mr. Hornik, Mr. Sykes, Mr. Rust, and Mr. Vasquez. Mr. Drogmiller and Mr. Jones said no. Ms. Fisher and Mr. Green did not have a response.

Asked what help they would want from the mayor, most called for advocacy of education and attention to the neighborhoods around schools.

Mr. Sykes said the quality of the school system is critical to the mayor's job of improving the economy. Mr. Vasquez said the mayor should promote the city as a community that values education.

Ms. Fisher called on the mayor to convene an education summit. Mr. Green warned against overinvolvement by the mayor, calling that a slippery slope to a takeover.

Candidates agreed the district needs more attention on special education and parental involvement.

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