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TPS board's effort to revive freshman sports falls short

An effort to resurrect freshman sports died on the Toledo Board of Education's table Tuesday, with a block of board members expressing concern that there was no guarantee funding would materialize.

An ad-hoc committee appointed to develop a comprehensive plan for athletics in Toledo Public Schools recommended that freshman football, basketball, volleyball, junior varsity soccer, as well as wrestling at the seventh and eighth-grade levels be reinstated for the 2012-13 school year. Bringing back the sports would cost about $150,000 annually, according to TPS administrators. Committee members hoped to fund the programs through a private foundation and funds recouped by students recruited back to the district who would have left because of sports programs at other schools.

The two board members on the committee, Bob Vasquez and Lisa Sobecki, supported the sports' reinstatement, arguing that the removal of the programs helped push students — and the state funding tied to them — away from the district. But board members Larry Sykes, Cecelia Adams, and Brenda Hill said they couldn't support the move without hard data that students are leaving TPS specifically because of cuts to sports. Ms. Hill abstained for the 2-2 vote.

The committee has discussed building a Toledo Community Foundation-operated fund to subsidize sports; the freshman sports additions would be a first step before soliciting donations. Board members on the committee said time was running out, as parents already are making decisions on where to send their children next year. "We need to stop talking about recruitment and retention," Mr. Vasquez said. "We need to start doing something."

The board did support funding a reinstatement Tuesday: the district's ombudsman. The Rev. Cedric Brock, pastor of Mount Nebo Baptist Church and president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Toledo and Vicinity, has been serving as ombudsman for several months, after Superintendent Jerome Pecko revived the position. Mr. Brock had served in the role, but the post was dropped in 2010 during budget cuts.

Work was apparently assigned to Mr. Brock before a contract was approved, however, and the board of education was asked Tuesday to approve a $6,000 confirming purchase order for the completed work. Ms. Sobecki and Mr. Vasquez questioned why Mr. Brock was given assignments before a contract was approved.

"As the board president, I sign the contracts," Ms. Sobecki said, "and I've not seen this contract come forth."

Ms. Adams questioned why some board members were concerned about a confirming purchase order in this instance but hadn't raised concerns about others. She said the board has long talked about the ombudsman position since before she was elected in November.

The board ultimately voted 4-1 in support of the payment, with Ms. Sobecki casting the lone no vote.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086.

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