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Latina community activist Angelita Cruz Bridges seeks “Hispanic Seat” on Toledo School Board


By Alan Abrams, La Prensa Senior Correspondent


Within days after Robert Torres announced his resignation from the Toledo School Board and recommended that Bob Vásquez be appointed as his successor, Latina community activist and attorney Angelita Cruz Bridges threw her hat into the ring.

In an e-mail sent to members of Toledo’s Latino community, Bridges announced her candidacy for the board’s “Hispanic Seat” once occupied by her current employer and mentor, current Lucas County Auditor Anita López.


The message from Bridges, sent to everyone on an e-mail list compiled by Torres, read, “I’m writing to inform everyone that I have submitted my application and letter of intent to screen for the vacancy on the TPS Board.  I have many reasons for doing this, including the desire to be part of an opportunity to make positive changes in an area of great importance. I have nothing personal against Mr. Vásquez and think he is a very nice man. I’m not doing this to cause any divisions and will respect and support the choice of the screening committee. I would love to discuss my reasons with any of you, so please feel free to call me if you would like….”


We asked Bridges what kind of response she’s received from the e-mail. “Really good,” she replied, adding “a lot of people have been really supportive. People know what I will bring to the board.


“I think it is really important to have a Hispanic Seat on the Toledo school board, especially with the Latino dropout rate. I would like to especially focus upon those schools identified by the Urban Affairs Center Study on Latino Dropouts -- Marshall and Westfield,” says Bridges.


How does she plan to make a difference? By instituting and maintaining direct contact with both the TPS administration and community members.


Bridges, 33, is of Puerto Rican descent. She was born in Suffern in New York’s Rockland County. Her parents, David and Enedia Cruz, came to Northwest Ohio to pursue their educational and career goals. It was a legacy they successfully passed on to their daughter.


 Bridges graduated from Bowling Green High School in 1992 and did her undergraduate studies at the University of Toledo. After she graduated from law school in 2000 and passed the bar exam, she was hired by Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) as a housing attorney. She left ABLE to become a staff attorney at Bowling Green State University working in student legal services. After three years in that position, she then joined Anita López in the office of the Lucas County Auditor as Director of Operations for the Auditor’s office and General Counsel. Effectively, two Latinas hold the key positions in that important department, which has about 160 employees.

Bridges had worked for López in her successful 2001 campaign for election to the Toledo School Board.


“Anita has been very supportive of my decision to seek the School Board position,” says Bridges. “She encouraged me to take advantage of this opportunity. She also said that if I wanted to cut my hours in the department to be able to devote my attention to School Board issues, she would be amenable.”

Angelita Cruz Bridges with attorneys Ben Konop and Arturo Quintero in 2006 at a Lucas County Democratic Hispanic/Latino Caucus event in Toledo.

Bridges is a former president of the Hispanic/Latino Democratic Caucus of Lucas County and served on the executive committee of the Lucas County Democratic Party. She left that position to help launch the Judge Joseph A. Flores Scholarship at the University of Toledo Foundation.


She also wanted to spend more time with her family. Her husband Jonathan is a financial analyst with Chrysler in Toledo.


When La Prensa interviewed Bridges in December 2004 about her then-career change, this reporter commented that “Her son Donovan will be almost seven years old when the 2008 election rolls around.” Then we asked, “Does this mean Bridges will return to the political arena?” Her response was simply that “She’s not ruling out any possibilities at this point.”


Donovan has since been joined by his sister Olivia, who her mother says is “11 months old going on 12.”


Donovan is quickly getting a political education. Last Sunday, his mother says she “took him to the Hillary Clinton campaign event where Bill Clinton appeared. I explained to him that this year we were seeing history made with both a: black and female presidential candidate. Donovan thought about it for a moment and then said, ‘We’re voting for the girl,’” says Bridges.


Donovan certainly earned the reward of having Bill Clinton personally autograph a page in Donovan’s book of U.S. presidents.


On Saturday, Bridges attended the University of ToledoLatino Alumni and Affiliate Meeting.  Not only was it an opportunity for her to meet many new faces, but she says she received a great deal of support for her campaign.


What does Bridges feel is the greatest strength she would bring to the School Board?


“I am experienced in community activism and I can bring that to the table. As a housing attorney, I worked as a legislation lobbyist with community groups. There are a lot of issues that need to be changed locally, and some of it can be done by lobbying in Columbus,” replies Bridges.


Steve Steel of the School Board is excited about the prospect of my becoming a member,” adds Bridges. “He is concerned about the issue of school funding, and I think I can be an asset there,” she explains.


However, Bridges is realistic when it comes down to one aspect that could become an issue. Her son Donovan attends a private school, Maumee Valley Country Day School.


“That may be an issue, although there is precedent for the child of a School Board member attending a private school” she acknowledges. “But there is a reason why he’s there. Long before I decided to try for the seat on the School Board, I tried to get him into a Toledo Public School with which I would be comfortable.


Her neighborhood school is Old Orchard Elementary which is on Academic Watch. Although she heard many negative stories about the school from other parents, she went to check it out for herself. She was told the school did not give any tours but she could look around after she registered Donovan.


Bridges then applied at Grove Patterson, where Donovan would have to be part of a lottery. Once again, she was told there were no tours.


“I know they have a good curriculum, and I was told I should come to a PTA meeting. I did, and I heard from a number of parents. Most of it was great feedback, but some were complaints. I knew it was a good school, but Donovan was not chosen for the lottery.


“However, I was told that he could get in if someone else opted out. So I waited all summer until the beginning of the school year. I called the school every week and even went there on the first day of school. But no one opted out,” says Bridges.


The last option was to try Beverley but school was already starting so Donovan was enrolled at Maumee Valley. “We were fortunate because we had to means to do that and find a solution. But many parents can not. Other people do not have that option,” says Bridges.


“That’s why one of the things I would like to do as a member of the School Board is to have the schools help families by being able to educate the parent population about the many good things Toledo Public Schools have to offer,” says Bridges.









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