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UPDATE: On March 7, 2008 , Bob Vásquez was sworn in as Robert Torres’ replacement. Fourteen people initially applied to fill the board vacancy and the remaining board members voted 3 to 1 for Vásquez.


School Board candidate Bob Vásquez: “Education is the pathway to equality!”

By Alan Abrams

La Prensa Senior Correspondent


Second in a series of profiles of the announced Latino candidates vying for appointment to the open Toledo Board of Education seat


At the going-away party for Robert Torres on Feb. 20, 2008, Torres delivered a rousing public endorsement of Bob Vásquez as his designated successor to the Toledo School Board. But can Vásquez translate that home-field advantage to front runner status?


There are currently 14 applicants who have filed for the position – you’ll find their names at the close of this story. Among them are three Latinos. We profiled Angelita Cruz Bridges in last week’s La Prensa and plan to cover José Louis Castillo Treviño in a future edition of La Prensa. This week, the man in the middle is Bob Vásquez, former unsuccessful candidate for Toledo City Council.


Let’s start with the obvious. Why, after having made a run at Toledo City Council, is Vásquez now trying for a Toledo School Board seat?


“When I was running for Toledo City Council in 2006, I looked at the things that go into a formula of why businesses want to come here. What role does economic development play in it? One of most visible factors people always look at is the school system. My concern was what can be done about the school system?” explains Vásquez.


“I pretty much developed a standard response. Although City Council does not have authority or responsibility for the school system, I promised that I would use whatever influence I had to help school board members come up with a plan to meet the challenges,” adds Vásquez.


“The school system is the foundation of the community. If you try to interest businesses into relocating in Toledo, there are certain things they have to feel good about. And Toledo meets those requirements. We are a safe city and we have quality schools.


“Businesses come here, but frequently their employees will live outside the city limits for a special school experience. I want them to live in the city of Toledo. And one way to see that happen is by offering quality education by the school system,” says Vásquez.


So what made him seek to be appointed to the school board? Vásquez says Torres specifically came to see him and asked if he could place his name in contention.

“Bob felt that I could best continue what he was doing on the board,” says Vásquez of Torres, who left Toledo to become Director of Development in Canton, Ohio.


What was Vásquez’s response? “I told him (Torres) that I have been involved in many things in this community.  I know that the basis for people’s dreams is education. Education is the pathway to equality and education is the great equalizer. It allows you to participate as an individual in society by giving you an understanding of issues and how they affect you.

Bob with his wife Kathy

“Education allows you to participate in a big way by preparing you to become a leader,” says Vásquez.


He recalls how community activists Hernán Vásquez (the two are not related), Baldemar Velásquez, and Margarita DeLeón were involved along with educator David Ibarra, in a pioneering study on finding solutions to the alarming number of Latino high school drop-outs.


“I would like to continue with that study and to seek a commitment to implement recommendations from that report.  It has been years since that study was conducted and no action has been taken. The excuse is always that the resources are not there. But they’re never there. I would like to see a creative and innovative method of finding efficient resources and coming up with effective solutions. You can control your own destiny to make the changes that need to be made,” explains Vásquez.


“First of all, I believe in diversity as did Bob Torres. I only happen to be Hispanic. I  

want to see diversity. I have volunteered on a number of projects including the Governor’s initiative to stem the dropout rate. Although the focus of that effort was directed toward African-Americans, I can tell you that when you’ve served as I have on any of those committees, you realize that it is the same issues that face African-Americans or Hispanics. And under-performing groups of people are not always people of color.


“But we do have to start to realize that Hispanics also suffer from the high dropout rate and need financial resources that on the state level are usually given only to communities,” says Vásquez


He also feels his experience in academia as a part-time instructor gives him another advantage in the competition for the Toledo School Board seat.


“I teach two courses at college,” says Vásquez. “I teach a seminar class at the University of Toledo on Management of Nonprofit Organizations. I’ve been teaching it since fall 1998 and my students are a combination of graduate and undergraduate students.


“I also teach a class on American Government at Owens Community Campus as well as an evening college at Rogers.


“I enjoy teaching. When I am sharing information and I see students learning, I know I am helping shape and mold future leaders, people who will participate in the community,” says Vásquez, who also mentors several college and high school students.


Born in Toledo, his grandparents came here as migrants. La familia Vásquez includes two pioneer educators—David Alvarado, a retired teacher who sent his numerous teaching years at the East Side’s Waite High School, and Richard Cervantes, a former principal at Waite High School, which has the highest concentration of Latinos in the city of Toledo.


“My father went to Waite but he did not go further than high school,” says Vásquez, who followed his father to Waite. “I am proud to be a product of the Toledo public schools,” he adds.


His parents were Primo and Susan Vásquez.  His mother died young and his father had to raise four boys with help from his family. Bob’s youngest brother was two weeks old when his mother died.


“I have a big family, and like many other Latino families they all came together, my grandparents, my aunt. My father is my hero. He had to raise four boys and he did a good job. My brothers Louis, Brian and Mike are all Toledo police officers,” says Vásquez proudly.


So why didn’t Bob Vásquez opt for a career in law enforcement?  “I was actually going to do that. I went to UT to get my bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. But at that time, ABLE [Advocates for Basic Legal Equality] had just filed a lawsuit against the City of Toledo because of their lack of hiring African-Americans on the police force. So I realized there would be so many African-Americans applying because the lawsuit did not include Hispanics. So I went on with my career and never looked back,” he explains.

Vásquez continued his education at the University of Toledo through his Master’s in Public Administration in 1997.


Even prior to earning his Master’s, Vásquez’s work experience has been primarily in dealing with community, kids and families – which he sees as another plus in terms of what he can bring to the table as a member of the Toledo School Board.

He worked for the Ohio Youth Commission as a Youth Street Worker and for the Lucas County Children Services Board as a caseworker investigating child abuse and neglect. He later became a Supervisor of Foster Care and a Casework Supervisor.


Vásquez worked for Boysville of Michigan as Regional Director/Executive Director of St. Anthony Villa in Toledo from 1987 through 1989. He worked with kids at risk and lived at the facility.


He served as Assistant State Director of the Ohio Youth Advocate Program from 1992 ton 1996. His responsibilities and areas of expertise were much the same as they currently are at the Twelve, Inc., where he has been Director of Special Projects for the last twelve years.


Vásquez works closely with the agency’s foster care program. “I work with recruiting foster families, training them, and helping them to get their licenses. I also help place kids. The Twelve Inc. is a $4,000,000 nonprofit serving children and families with six offices in Ohio and two in Florida,” he explains.


He and his wife Kathy have two sons.  Stephen works in Development for United Way, and David is at BAX Global.


Both of Vásquez’s sons originally went to public schools until the family made a decision that Stephen should attend Catholic school in order to get a religious education. “When we moved Stephen, we moved David too,” says Vásquez. The boys graduated from

St. Joan of Arc and St. Francis de Sales High School.


Vásquez is active in the community. He serves on the Community Relations Committee of the Toledo Zoo and is a member of the board of WGTE.  He has twice been appointed to the Military Academy Selection Committee for U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur.


He was a member of the City of Toledo’s Hispanic Affairs Commission from 2003 to 2007 and served on the Lucas County Tax Levy Citizens Advisory Board in 2005.


Other candidates
In addition to Latino candidates Cruz-Bridges, Vásquez, and Treviño, the other candidates seeking appointment to the open position are:


John G. Bull Dog Rust, a longtime attorney now in his 90s and the oldest candidate on the list.

Cheryl Catlin, an unsuccessful candidate for the school board in 2007.

Jim Whiteman, an educator who also made an unsuccessful bid for the board.

Chris Myers, a two-time unsuccessful candidate for the school board.

Dr. Stephen Goldman, who has also made an unsuccessful run for the board.

Theodore Jobe, who was a candidate for the school board in 2007 and is a retired Libbey High School teacher and coach.

Vince Hornik, an honored school district volunteer.

Layne Anthony Morris, a former Wood County employee.

Willie S. Oliver, a now-retired Scott High School guidance counselor and athletic coach.

Frank Scarlato, who has an extensive business management and financial expertise.

Jamilah N. Jones, coordinator of graduate student recruitment at the University of Toledo’s college of graduate studies.


According to the Board’s president, Dr. Steven Steel, the board has 30 days to fill the seat vacated by Torres but it cannot appoint a replacement before ten days have elapsed from Torres’s final day of service. According to Steel and published reports, the board has a retreat scheduled on March 8, the 13th day after the resignation of Torres. If there is not a special meeting held prior to that date, Torres’ replacement will be chosen at the retreat.


Editor’s Note: Robert Torres began his new career as Director of Development of the City of Canton, Ohio on February 25, 2008. See http://www.laprensa1.com/Stories/2008/021608/Torres.htm


UPDATE: On March 7, 2008 , Bob Vásquez was sworn in as Robert Torres’ replacement. Fourteen people initially applied to fill the board vacancy and the remaining board members voted 3 to 1 for Vásquez.


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






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