March 28, 2013: The Toledo Public Schools board has narrowed its search for an interim superintendent to three finalists, one of them an internal candidate. The TPS board must replace outgoing school superintendent Dr. Jerome Pecko, who plans to retire July 31.
The board of education met for about 75 minutes behind closed doors last week, before deciding to schedule interviews this week with TPS Assistant Superintendent Romules Durant, Oregon City Schools Superintendent Michael Zalar, and Cleveland Heights-University Heights Schools Superintendent Douglas Heuer.
“We picked three people who we thought would fit in Toledo best. That’s all,” said Brenda Hill, TPS board of education president. “I’m not going to comment on the pros or cons of each.”
Despite more than 20 TPS administrators who hold superintendent certifications, only Dr. Durant submitted his name as an internal candidate. Two of Dr. Durant’s colleagues, Assistant Superintendent Brian Murphy and Chief Academic Officer James Gault, purposely withheld their names in favor of Dr. Durant’s candidacy moving forward.
Those three administrators are credited as the chief architects of the TPS transformation plan, which includes the conversion to K-8 neighborhood schools and other initiatives aimed at improving the academic performance of each individual student.
Dr. Durant is a Toledo native and Waite High School graduate. He played outside linebacker on the University of Toledo football team and earned his undergraduate, master’s degree and PhD from UT. The 37-year old assistant superintendent rose through the ranks at TPS, spending time as a teacher and principal along the way.
Dr. Durant also started chapters of the Student African-American Brotherhood (SAAB) and Young Women of Excellence (YWOE) at each of six TPS high schools, as a means of changing the overall culture at each school and to give teens a chance to learn leadership skills.
Dr. Zalar has led the Oregon City Schools as superintendent since 2008, after being promoted to the post from principal at Clay High School. The former Eagle Scout also served as a high school principal and career-technical educator in other Northwest Ohio school districts.
Dr. Heuer has served as superintendent in three Northeast Ohio school districts since his retirement from a suburban Columbus school system in 2003. In his application for the TPS post, Heuer cited he has led all three school districts to an “Excellent” rating on their district report cards, successfully passed levies, and developed comprehensive facilities plans. Dr. Heuer has been an elementary, middle school, and high school principal, as well as school administrator during his career in a number of Ohio school districts.
There is no set timeline to hire an interim superintendent, but Ms. Hill has indicated the board of education would like to give the new hire a chance to work alongside the current superintendent before he leaves TPS this summer.
While the TPS board of education only plans to hire an interim superintendent to succeed Dr. Pecko, school board members are leaving the door open to make whoever is selected the permanent superintendent if the district sees success.