TPS hosts 9/11 Community Leaders Luncheon, touts levy
By Kevin Milliken,
La Prensa Correspondent
Toledo Public Schools (TPS) paid homage to first responders on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014 with a luncheon for community leaders at Waite Brand Auditorium. But the event quickly turned into a clarion call to rally support for a school levy on the November 4 ballot.
“The city is no stronger, the city has no future, the city has nothing but a history if we don’t invest in our children for the future,” said Mayor D. Michael Collins. “We are in a very different world today. If we don’t train, educate, and acclimate our youth, this city will never flourish, nor will this region.”
Among the Latino leaders in attendance at the community leaders event were: Emilio Ramírez, TPS principal mentor/educator; José Luna, TPS Hispanic outreach coordinator; Bob Vásquez, TPS board of education vice president; Linda Alvarado-Arce, executive director of the Toledo Board of Community Relations, Rosalinda Contreraz, executive director of the Toledo Youth Commission; Stephanie Serda, Adelante staff member; Rico Neller of La Prensa; and Roberto Torres, executive director of the Northwest Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Supporters spoke a lot about Issue 1, a TPS levy on the November ballot which involves increased funding for the district. The 5.8 mill levy would raise $13 million per year over a five- year period. The tax issue would pay for operations and permanent improvements.
One of the promises made by district leaders is to restore bus service for K-12 students with the tax issue, noting the harsh winter that led to the cancellation of classes on many days because students had to walk long distances.
Linda Alvarado-Arce y Emilio Ramírez
Bowsher High School Choir
“We have an opportunity, a window of opportunity, to do what Ghandi suggested—and that’s to be an instrument of change,” said Mayor Collins. “Let’s commit, that when we leave here today, commit to ourselves that we will leave the city of Toledo, we will leave this region, that we will leave this Earth with the comfort of knowing we made a change, left the world in a better place.”
TPS officials call the levy critical to continuing the district’s transformation plan, upgrade computers and other technology, and to offer competitive salaries for employee retention and attraction. TPS has not seen any new money since 2001, because levy funding increases have had a hard time passing across Ohio in the last two decades. TPS will not go back to the ballot until 2018, when another tax levy would be due for renewal.
Ray Wood, NAACP president and president of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local #14, challenged the crowd of community leaders to “raise their voices” in support of the levy.
“Being successful is not going to take us sitting on our hands, not whispering, but we’re going to have to shout it out as loud as we can to actively engage all of our friends and relatives, neighbors and co-workers,” said the graduate of the former Macomber Technical-Vocational High School. “We’re going to have to do every single thing we can and make this a success because the future is now and the children are our future.”
But raising their voices won’t be easy. Right after the luncheon for community leaders, the Ohio Dept. of Education released this year’s school report cards, and although the 2014 report card is an improvement over last year, TPS received an overall “D” grade.
According to the state education department, only 69 percent of TPS students passed state-mandated tests last year. The Ohio Dept. of Education reported 64.5 percent of TPS students graduate in 4 years, while 69.9 percent earn a diploma within five years. Both percentages earned TPS “F” grades.
TPS also received an “F” in achieving academic proficiency goals, meeting only two of 24 academic standards for reading, math, science, and social studies scores. The district did earn three “A” grades: for value-added in overall, students with disabilities and serving the lowest-performing 20 percent of students. The value-added category measures how much students in fourth through eighth grades improve from year-to-year in math and reading.
Overall, the report card for TPS was four Fs, three As, one C, and one D. Last year, the district got five Fs, two As, a B, and a D.
By comparison, suburban school districts Anthony Wayne, Ottawa Hills, Perrysburg, and Sylvania accomplished all 24 academic standards. Ottawa Hills received an overall ‘A’ on its report card, while the other three districts earned a ‘B’.