TAP: What does the Toledo Public Schools System need to focus on?
Pecko: To Begin, we need to focus on instruction and learning, which is where all of us would like to focus. Budgeting is important and I will do that.
What positions have you
held previously ?
I was Assistant Principal for 13 years in junior highs and high schools in Akron and then went downtown and served as executive assistant (assistant superintendent level) position. We had a superintendent, then a deputy superintendent and then me and two other people. That was where I was on the ladder. I spent about six years there, then took a superintendency in Barberton, Ohio for nine years. Then I went to Springfield where I was the Superintendent for four years.
How are things going in Toledo? Did your wife move to Toledo with you?
I’m enjoying it. My wife got a new position at First Merit Bank in Akron where she is a vice-president. She was the assistant vice-president and always wanted to be a VP and it happened about a year and a half ago. She works in the accounting department. They missed the sub-prime [crisis]. They are a very conservative bank.
What about the Board of Education, how do you work
I stay very neutral. I listen to all of them. They are all taking to me. Both sides are talking to me and we do have the ongoing debate between two of them. But you know what, the bottom line is these are all very intelligent people. There are no sloughs on that board and they are very passionate. Sometimes they don’t do things diplomatically. That’s their business. We are at a point now where we need to be united as a group. People in the community are tearing us apart over that division [on the Board].
Where do you see the district will be or where do you hope the district will be in five years?
I’d say in the next five years I do see the district, if they are not “excellent” [on the Ohio Department of Education report card rating], they are pretty doggone close to being there. We have moved up incrementally over the last four or five years and I think [former Superintendent] John [Foley] has done a nice job building up a base of support for focusing on student academic achievement. There is a pretty sophisticated process that the district uses to develop an improvement plan on an annual basis; a district planning initiative. Basically, we have identified areas district wide and then at each building [where they will focus]. There is a process that involves community participation and staff participation and each school looks at data in their building, examines it carefully, and then determines some areas that they want to focus on to target for improvement. They look for strategies or actual plans, they assign people to monitor those and then they have an evaluation component to that. It’s got all the sophistication. The performance index is probably the simplest measure that people can have [to see improvement]. It’s your report card rating. Each year for the last three or four years the school district has inched up in terms of the performance index. This time around it jumped from 80.0 to 81.6, so its up 1.6%.
You have already accomplished a lot in your career. Why take on the Superintendency of the Toledo Public School System?
You can ask my wife. I regret it over and over again that I left Springfield. And Springfield was a lot more hands on. I had no assistant superintendent. I had no one else. I had a curriculum director, treasurer and a business manager and myself. It was totally a different kind of an experience. Yesterday I went over to Leverette, the middle school and I ate lunch with a group of boys. They are very difficult to talk to when they are in middle school. I don’t have much time to do that. Then I’ll go to a football game and just watch. Just being able to observe. I’m in a position that I think is very envious. I can do something, if I am successful, that will help improve the lives of 25,000 children. It doesn’t get any better than that.