Politics 101: Don't try to rewrite history with someone who made it

There is something wrong with someone who writes to clarify the record, has the record rewritten on behalf of the “President of the Toledo Board of Education”. That sums up what Steven Steel tries to do in a response from a community member trying to clarify some misconceptions.

If there is a group who should be awarded a model citizen group in how they got what they wanted accomplished, it should be the Scott Alumni Association on how they identified a goal and relentlessly pursued it and got it. It gives you hope that things can still be accomplished. It was not until this year that the Toledo Public Schools warmed up to remodeling Scott High School, contrary to what some on the TPS board of education in administration have been saying for years. After getting the cold shoulder from everyone and most TPS board members, they remained strong. I remember clearly that starting in late 2006/early 2007 when the alumni association floated the idea of remodeling no one would hear them, including Steven Steel. The only one who attended the meetings in late 06 was Darlene Fisher. There were many in the group who were vocal. Warren shared with me the exchanges and the feedback he had in his odd experience on trying to set the record straight.

Well in response to a comment made about what Darlene Fisher has done in the Toledo City Paper, one of the Alumni Association members, Warren Woodberry wrote to state that Darlene was there from the beginning.

You can read the dialog back and forth below, but it is interesting that Steel is using her vote against the levy as a reason she should not be rewarded. Steel also says:
“The renovation of Scott is clearly a story of elected officials working together on behalf of expressed community desires and with community members.”

Spoken like a someone who thinks that nothing happens without the red stamp of a big government. That perspective has gotten the area into the mess it is in. The problems with this is that the drive to remodel started 2.5 years earlier and it was not until 2008, a year before municipal elections that it only took traction. Interestingly enough some politicians who will be on the ballot at the last minute taking credit for an initiative supported by a group that was highly mobilized would seem odd :). The other problem Steel has with that position of the vote is that a levy with no promises to correct the problems that were so visibly demonstrated in the paste is a legitimate vote no, but let’s not let good government get in the way of gaining credit and to score political points. While I am glad that the Scott Alumni Association could get their goal with the passage of the levy, I also held hesitations on the lack of accountability on the new money. I voted no on the levy because TPS did not address my concerns that I stated to Dan Romano back in July on Eye on Toledo on WSPD.

It was the Alumni and friends and associates from across the Toledo spectrum that kept the spotlight on the Scott issue. The alumni formed the necessary networks, to keep it going.

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The letter that started everything:

Gosh! When I read your Media Darlings article in the Dec.17 TCP, I could not believe that you were issuing a challenge if anyone could make a list if they knew of one thing that Darlene Fisher had accomplished during her term on the TPS board. You then described her as a Gadfly!

GADFLY: During his defense when on trial for his life, Socrates, according to Plato's writings, pointed out that dissent, like the tiny (relative to the size of a horse) gadfly, was easy to swat, but the cost to society of silencing individuals who were irritating could be very high. "If you kill a man like me, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me," because his role was that of a gadfly, "to sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth." In modern and local politics, gadfly is a term used to describe someone who persistently challenges people in positions of power, the status quo or a popular position.[3] The word may be uttered in a pejorative sense, while at the same time be accepted as a description of honorable work or civic duty.

1. Darlene Fisher was the only one on the TPS board that kept our dream alive to save Scott High School .

2. Darlene Fisher initially, and single handedly went against all of the board members in asking questions that we needed asked, and she helped with our efforts to have the cost of renovating Scott reduced by $8.5 million dollars!
3. She attended many meetings and press conferences offering her support and practical suggestions.

If and when we put our awards ceremony together, we hope that you will attend the first "Gadfly Award Ceremony" which will be awarded to Darlene Fisher.

I never said that she alone saved Scott. Plus we had already sent thanks to the complete school board for there assistance in putting Scott back in the plan, and we advocated for passing of the levy.

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Steel’s response:

I write as President of the Toledo Board of Education to correct the misstatements contained in a recent letter concerning the renovation of Scott High School. Contrary to the letter writer, the renovation of Scott is a testament to the importance of compromise and consensus-building within a policy-making body, something an individual going it alone can not accomplish.

The Toledo Public Schools administration first floated the idea of removing Scott from the Ohio School Facilities Commission building program in the late spring of 2008. The timing was critical. If Segment 5 of the rebuilding plan wasn’t revised by the June 30 end of the fiscal year, the student enrollment numbers would be based on the following year, meaning a lower count and less state matching dollars. The assessment of renovation costs for Scott could have meant an additional investment of over $10 million in local dollars, which the District does not have. The administration advised removing Scott, reallocating the enrollment, and building two smaller high schools instead, with no additional local investment needed.

In the meantime, then-Business Manager Ron Victor held a series of public meetings to ensure the community sentiment still favored the renovation of Scott and began talks with OSFC director Michael Schumacher to see if a new assessment of renovation costs could be done. Several community groups coalesced in the Save Our Scott effort.
This is where the work behind the scenes began. Board member and OSFC Committee vice chair Lisa Sobecki began the inquiry to see if the deadline could be postponed and if a new assessment could be performed. She crafted a board resolution which would meet a new deadline, remove Scott, but with a contingency that it could be returned to the state program upon successful passage of a bond issue in November to recover previously approved monies and use them for the renovations of several District buildings. This resolution was forwarded to the OSFC, and Mrs. Sobecki worked with individual board members to word it in a way that could meet any misgivings.
An OSFC committee meeting was held at Scott for community input on the resolution with a majority of board members in attendance. Board members Bob Vasquez and Mrs. Sobecki then worked with state OSFC member Rep. Matt Szollosi to arrange a tour of Scott with policy makers, including the OSFC’s Schumacher and other OSFC representatives, prior to the resolution begin presented in a board meeting. Several TPS board members worked to put the tour together, including me as Board President. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and State Reps. Peter Ujvagi and Edna Brown joined TPS board members on the tour.

The resolution passed with all five board members voting yes. The OSFC began a new assessment, while the TPS board Finance Committee, led by Mr. Vasquez and vice chair Jack Ford, worked to craft bond issue language which could raise needed funds. Mr. Vasquez and District administrators spoke individually with board members to explain the bond resolution, and board members met individually with concerned members of Save Our Scott to explain the status after the resolution, and the necessity of passing the bond issue. The resolution to place the bond issue on the November ballot also passed with all five members voting yes.

Save Our Scott members worked diligently on the passage of the bond issue, and the OSFC committee of the TPS board discussed a further resolution to affirm the board’s intent to spend the money on the Scott project, as well as prioritized needs at Waite, Harvard, Edgewater, Old West End Academy, Crossgates, Glendale-Feilbach, and Devilbiss renovations. A resolution presented at committee was opposed by several board members as too specific, and would most likely not have passed the board. Mrs. Sobecki again worked with individual board members to craft a viable resolution. It passed with 4 yes votes. Board member Darlene Fisher, who had advanced the initial and ill-fated version, voted no.

The hard work of TPS administration, employees, board members, and Save Our Scott and other community members resulted in a strong passage of the bond issue on November 4th. A board OSFC committee meeting was held on November 5th to advance a resolution returning Scott to the OSFC program and using bond monies to pay additional local needs based on the new assessment, then estimated at $5-6 million . On November 7th, as demanded in the first board resolution, the TPS board met and passed the new resolution by 5 yes votes.

The renovation of Scott is clearly a story of elected officials working together on behalf of expressed community desires and with community members. TPS board members worked hard behind the scenes with a state body and state elected officials as well as with each other to craft compromises that, in the end, will provide renovated learning spaces across the district, including at Scott. To suggest that one individual is responsible is completely erroneous.
Steve Steel, President
Toledo Board of Education

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Steel’s response was sent to a handful of people, one person responded:

....Warren, This was a group effort and without Darlene on the Board it would have not been possible even with all the efforts by everyone involved. The administration, teachers union, administrators union, and some of the Board did not want to save Scott. Part of this backlash against Darlene is, in my opinion, driven by the fact that she stuck to her guns and got it done despite their efforts to undermine it. The key was when Darlene took the whole issue public and had Coleman from the OSFC in the meeting before the public where real pressure could be brought to bear. After that meeting, there was a different attitude by the OSFC. All our efforts would have gone for naught without this break through. In fact, I was firmly of the belief that Scott would never be rebuilt. I'm glad I was wrong, but it only happened because the OSFC was brought to account. I'm not trying to diminish everyone's role - without it nothing would have happened. I just believe the key moment occurred when the OSFC was put on the spot by the public and by local politicians weighing in after they were lobbied heavily by all of us etc etc.

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Another person responded:

Mr. Steel Reading your response to Mr. Woodberry's response to a negative imbecile like Hildo was disturbing on so many levels. It kept raising the question in my mind about where you were during this whole process. No one ever saw you at any of the meetings, yet you seem to know a lot about what Ms. Fisher did or did not do. For someone who is the public face of an elected body, you seem incapable of giving credit to one board member who did do something which was very public and appreciated by community members while glorifying even the smallest roles of the other board members. A response like this seems to say you have an agenda other than being a board member serving the interest of this community. I can't help asking why you responded is such a loudmouthed manner. A board president looking to show a united effort would have built on the information written adding the involvement of other board members. You took the approach of diminishing the role played by Ms. Fisher as a basis for glorifying your own role as leader in this fight to save Scott. A good leader would never use such an approach whether the writer was right or wrong. After reading Mr. Woodberry's response, I think you two should duke it out in public. I think the press should interview both of you and print your responses and any proof you have to the same questions side by side. Let the public decide if they believe the fantasy you portray as fact or Mr. Woodberry's first hand account.

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Warren responded:

Mr.President,

I would like to thank you for your efforts to save Scott HS although I thought that this had already been done. We could not have accomplished this without the boards approval and involvement. I will be in touch with Mr. Foley on this issue at a later date just in case he also did not know that we were grateful for his efforts. Although your support was better late than never, I fail to read any misstatements into my response to a request from Johnny Hildo to name one thing that Darlene Fisher has done while on the TPS board! I have read and re-read my statements concerning our assessments of the efforts of TPS board member Darlene Fisher in assisting us in highlighting the saving of Scott HS. and in spite of you stating that "I write as President of the Toledo Board of Education to correct the misstatements ( obviously made by me) contained in a recent letter concerning the renovation of Scott High School" I find none! In your letter to the Toledo
City Paper Editor you appear to greatly diminish the contribution of Darlene Fisher and instead credit Mrs. Sobecki, Jack Ford and Mr. Vasquez, and yourself as the main engines behind saving Scott.

Not being content to name one thing that I believed that TPS member Darlene Fisher accomplished on the board, I would also like to acknowledge the successes of the complete TPS board and especially Ron Victor on the Scott issue. But I still cannot believe that you, as the president of TPS, would find umbrage with my personal opinion! I was also surprised that attempts were made to greatly diminish the contribution of Darlene Fisher while enhancing the contributions of Mrs. Sobecki, Jack Ford and Mr. Vasquez, and yourself.

In the Blade article "State wants Scott plan by July 31 Fate of historic school is still undecided." by Meghan Gilbert staff writer. Was she incorrect in crediting both Mrs. Sobecki and Darlene Fisher by stating that "Ms. Sobecki and Darlene Fisher, the school board members on the committee, asked to petition for waivers that could give the district more time and flexibility while not jeopardizing the project?"

For good measure you throw in the SOS committee of which the Scott Alumni is a fully integrated part, and in attempting to highlight them as some stand alone group to stroke them, I would like to inform you that members of the Scott alumni and myself are an integral part of the SOS. They could be temporary but we are forever. We, The Scott Alumni Assoc. were the first to invite Rep. Edna Brown and the mayor into the fray and the first to solicit the invaluable aid of the Blade writers, The Ohio Heritage and Historical Society group and the Old West End. And We formed the Save Our Scott/Scott Alumni Association coalition for additional help with our struggle and were responsible for most of the press conferences called to keep Scott on the front burner. But I repeat, we could not have wrapped this all up without TPS.

You then credit the hard work of TPS administration, employees, board members, and Save Our Scott and other community members" I am glad at least that the Scott Alumni Association is probably included in the community members list as you obviously find it hard to mention us by name. On the commitment of Jack Ford to saving Scott, we were not encouraged by his statement in the Truth news concerning saving Scott.( I have the article) I also note that you are dating the efforts of TPS after the election of Mrs. Sobecki and Mr. Ford while I am speaking about the effort before and during the time that they were on the board. I merely stated that Darlene Fisher kept our dreams alive, single handily went against all of the board members in our opinion at that time and attended many meetings in the hood at night to discuss how to save Scott. I would suggest a review of the minutes of all meetings to see who brought up the issue of Scott the most and in a
positive light!
THOU DOEST PROTEST TOO LOUDLY HER EFFORTS.

I would think that a career politician would not have the time to take on a lowly citizen who merely acknowledged the work of a member of TPS. I am surprised that you read into my article that I credited Darlene Fisher with saving Scott alone! Mr. Steel, I know that sometimes efforts are made to rewrite history and to enhance the role of past presidents even of the USA. I hope that I can mark the history of our efforts to save Scott and the roles that others have played in this endeavor. By the time that the OSFC gave us a deadline which caught us all by surprise as even Ron Victor, (who also was instrumental in our success) your business manager at the time, was shocked that we were not informed and due to failure to communicate, Scott was in great jeopardy. I have the correspondence if you would care to see it. I also have some of the dates and the names of individuals that were contacted by either Ben Williams, Scott Alumni President Robert Davis, Taron Cunningham, The SOS committee, Twila Paige, Steven Flagg and myself, all asking far in advance of any recorded request by TPS that they look deeply into the situation and requesting "a Special Consideration" in order to stay on the drawing board.

Below are just a small portion of the efforts made by those other than TPS and I hope that you will note that some of these efforts stretch back several years when we were not able to get a meeting with the TPS board. Ben Williams, Chris Myers, Steven Flagg and Twila Paige along with other known members of the Scott Alumni Association were in the fight long before you or John Foley.
I hope that some of these letters will show that there were many more contacts and initiations of concern than you knew about. I have been flooded with responses to your response, and they all exhibit a great degree of shock at what you have written. Believe me, my response is most polite in comparison. Also you will see that it was the Scott Alumni Association that first asked for "a special consideration" invited Mrs. Rep. Edna Brown and the mayor into the fray and solicited the Blade for help with our struggle. But I repeat, we could not have accomplished this without the TPS board!

I did not find that very difficult to admit and I hope that you as a possible future politician will be able to publicly admit that there was more effort by others than you knew of. The man that can admit when he is wrong stands a chance... of getting support if when he seeks a higher office! Since you obviously wanted certain individuals to know of your response to my letter which by no stretch of the imagination reflected on you, I guess that allows me the freedom to also let people know of my response to you. Gosh, I am still puzzled as to why you would ignore the contribution of others outside of TPS while attempting to throw Ms. Fisher under the bus! I would have thought that you would have let sleeping dogs lie since an election is coming up next year and my letter had nothing whatsoever to do with you. In fact I helped draft letters to thank TPS for its actions to save Scott.

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