Larry Sykes and minority contracting

Open Letter to the Black Community and anyone else interested in fair play, fair dealing and the truth,

I had the opportunity of attending the Toledo Board of Education's interviews for filling the vacancy left by the abdication of Steve Steel, the inveterate politician.

The interviews were held with Bob Vasquez presiding over the proceedings. Present were Ms. Darlene Fisher, Mr. Bob Vasquez, Ms. Lisa Sobecki and Mr. Jack Ford.

The applicants for the most part were quite explicit in why they were vying for a seat on the board for the remaining term of Mr. Steel. Four of the applicants are running for the permanent seat in the upcoming election.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this appointment is the application of Larry Sykes, former member of the Board of Education. It is felt in the community that Mr. Sykes will get this appointed seat. If this does happen, I think that the children of Toledo will have been done a great disservice.

While I am not a fan of Mr. Sykes, and the feelings appear to be mutual, I must speak as a person who is a seeker of the truth.

Mr. Sykes, when interviewed, was very magnanimous in his relating of his accomplishments, his love of God and the children of Toledo. He proffered that he is a changed man from the person he was on the Board of Education and that he holds no grudges.

While I am a believer of man's ability to transform himself from a negative into a positive, I also think that transformation must include a degree of true humility while beseeching forgiveness from the person or thing that he/man has offended. Not wishing to make this a personal "hatin' on Larry" letter, I must relate an incident that happened to me in January 2008 while walking to a seat at Braden Methodist Church. Out of the blue, Mr. Sykes walked up to me in a confrontational manner and stated, "Ms. Page if you say anything to me again in public I will "sue yo ass." This was said inside of a place of worship from a public leader. If Mr. Sykes has had a transformation it would serve him well to apologize to me and anyone else that he has offended or his words of transformation will fall on deaf ears.

While this episode is disgusting in and of itself what follows is a travesty and a disservice to the minority contractors who expected the opportunity to ply their various trades to benefit their professions, their families and their community and share in the 821 million dollar Building for Success program.

Mr. Sykes' interview follows from notes that I took during the interview and the tapes of the interview are available at the Board of Education's treasurer's office, for those skeptics who believe that Mr. Sykes is Wonder Man.

While I am not a fan of Mr. Sykes and the feeling seems to be mutual, I must speak out as a person who also cares about children and the community in which we all live. Following is the interview with Mr. Sykes:

The interview began with Mr. Sykes walking to the podium with his hat on which remained on during the entire interview. He was given the opportunity to give an overview of why he wanted to be on the board. He thanked Mr. Ford for getting him on all of the boards that he has served on. Mr. Vasquez asked him what were his strengths and his weaknesses to which he replied that his strengths were his experience, knowledge and his resources and his weaknesses were that he was passionate, he gets frustrated, he is an aggressive person and that he can't do things fast enough. Ms. Sobecki asked what skill sets would he bring to the board. He responded by saying that he helped to change policies that were outdated and had been in place 30 years or more. He specifically mentioned the cell phone policy. Actually, he did not institute a cell phone policy as each school has their own policy. A cell phone policy was not instituted because it would also include teachers as well as students and the policy committee then headed by Mr. Sykes would have had to fight the Toledo Federation of Teachers, which he did not have the fortitude nor the will to do.

Ms.Fisher then asked if he or any member of his immediate family receive any money from any ventures with TPS and did he know of any conflicts of interest that he would have. He answered that he received no money from TPS but that his wife has spent hundreds of hours volunteering for TPS.

Then the questioning became very interesting. Mr. Ford asked for permission to move away from the established format of questioning and Mr. Vasquez consented. Mr. Ford related that the buzz in the community was why Mr. Sykes wanted to come back to the board. Mr. Ford stated to Mr. Sykes that "when you were in your prime, leader of the school board, had the ear of Sanders, was on the Metro Parks board, governor's boards, 5-6 other boards, 5/3's community guy, a force of power, the black community's go to guy and had the "aura." The aura is gone, as well as the 5/3 "aura" in the community, primarily because of you. You moved from being the single most influential man of color, your dropping out was a net loss to the community, yet when you had all of this power the Minority Contractors/OSFC did not get done.

Mr. Sykes responded by saying that he was humbled by Mr. Ford's words but that sometimes you have to step down so that the district can achieve. He then made a statement that is difficult to comprehend and that even in a delusional world a person would question the veracity of the statement. Mr. Sykes said, "I challenge anyone who says that the minority contractors did not get a piece of the pie, they got a good piece of the money at the beginning." I was absolutely floored! We, AAPA and the Urban Coalition were involved in the Building for Success program from the beginning, attending board meetings, committee meetings, oversight committee meetings and any other meetings that were held concerning the minority contractors and the Building for Success Program and this was the first time I have heard that the Minority Contractors got a "good piece of money." I wonder if they are aware of the good piece of money that they received.

My suggestion is to challenge Mr. Sykes, to show who got this "good piece of money."

My reason for writing this Open Letter is to inform. The more information that you have the easier it is to put the puzzle together. Because we have filed a complaint with the federal government about the lack of minority inclusion in the Building for Success Program, it is imperative that the truth be told. The 821 Million dollars spent to revive the school buildings in Toledo was a program that will not happen again. When the Building for Success Program was implemented, with our tax dollars, there was a black mayor, a black TPS superintendent and a black president of the school board, however, the black community lost out on a good "piece of the money."

Twila Page

African American Parents' Association

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Of course, that is unrealistic and unnatural. When will people of white color wake up and realize others don't deny their race or hesitate to seek the "advancement" of their particular color?

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