Deadline Now: TPS Superintendent Romules Durant

Deadline Now: TPS Superintendent Romules Durant

Friday, June 28, 2013

Newly-appointed Toledo Public Schools Superintendent Romules Durant joins host Jack Lessenberry for an enlightening conversation about Dr. Durant's plans to turn the schools around.

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"

There was a time when I would have thought that elevating someone like Romules Durant to superintendent would have been a poor choice. Not because of his youth, or lack of ability.

But because he has never worked for any other school district at any point in his career. That could be dangerous. We know that a highly inbred and insular culture nearly destroyed General Motors. Indeed, if Dr. Durant gives in to a culture of “we do it this way because we’ve always done it this way,” then Toledo Public Schools are doomed.

Yet there are disadvantages to bringing in an outsider as superintendent and expecting them to hit the ground running without really understanding the local culture and conditions. In other cities, I have seen newspapers ruined and school districts harmed by out of towners who understood little but thought they knew best.

And there are huge advantages to really understanding a town, its citizens and its schools. Dr. Durant prides himself on reading widely and traveling extensively to study new techniques. So I am keeping an open mind. One thing I do know: It is absolutely essential that Romules Durant, or someone, stop the enrollment decline and change the perception of Toledo Public Schools, and do it soon. Whether or not the public schools work may just be the single greatest factor in determining whether cities thrive or decline.

Detroit, where I am from, may be the nation’s biggest failure as a city. By and large, crime gets most of the blame. But in fact, the greater problem is that the population has no confidence in the ability of the public schools to educate or even keep kids safe. Since the year two thousand, enrollment in Detroit schools has dropped from nearly two hundred thousand to less than fifty thousand.

Tens of thousands of families have, as a result, fled to the suburbs. Toledo is not Detroit, but the number of kids in TPS has fallen by more than a third in little more than a decade.

Romules Durant has a reputation as a dedicated, passionate, and innovative educator. For all our sakes and Toledo’s future, we need to wish him all the luck in the world.