BY JURRY TAALIB-DEEN
Journal Staff Writer
Sandra Meeks Speller, the former embattled Toledo Public Schools assistant principal, should get her job back, community members say.
Dr. Earl Murry, a community activist and former professor of education and vice provost at the University of Toledo, hosted a forum Sunday, July 28, at First Church of God, 3016 Collingwood.
About 50 people attended the event where Meeks Speller is a member.
Murry, a former executive director at Dayton Public Schools and Columbus Municipal Service, started the forum saying Meeks Speller retained attorney Dennis D. Grant of Columbus to avoid conflict because many Toledo lawyers are friends.
Grant wouldn’t have to worry about the connections and politics, Murry said. He also successfully represented Toledo clients in race relation cases.
Murry, who is handling Meeks’ administrative paper work regarding her law suit, said some of the information already public about Speller’s case is incorrect.
The Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel, which Meeks Speller was a member of, said they wouldn’t represent her because they didn’t think she could win and that they believe the allegations made by the Board of Education were true.
Murry then discussed how the Board of education went against the arbitrator’s decision, who favored Meeks Speller.
The Board cut off Meeks Speller’s health benefits without notifying her in writing and then receiving a recommendation of termination from the then superintendent, Dr. Jerome Pecko.
“The board doesn’t have the right to hire or fire an employee of Toledo Public Schools without receiving a written recommendation from the superintendent, who at the time was Dr. Jerome Pecko,” Murry said.
At that time, hands from the audience went up in the air to ask questions.
“Is there a time frame in which the board has to have all of their paper work completed, being that they have not served her any paper work?” someone asked.
“Yes, but that time frame has expired,” Murry responded.
The next two questions were about Dr. Romules L. Durant, who takes over as interim superintendent Thursday, Aug. 1.
“What’s Durant’s stance on the issue?” And, “What, if any, have been your discussions with Durant?”
Murry said he couldn’t go into detail about their conversation, but said Durant is very smart and talented and he believed would make the right decision.
Durant could meet with the Board and recommend that Meeks Speller be reinstated, Murry said.
“The Board doesn’t want to face a $2.8 million dollar lawsuit,” Murry said.
Someone then yelled, “The lawsuit needs to go through in order to teach the Board a lesson and to help prevent this type of action from occurring again.”
The Board of Education hired Durant, they could terminate him based upon his recommendation of rehiring Meeks Speller, Murry said.
“Would it be wise for us to send Durant letters asking for the re-instatement of Speller?” someone asked.
“(Durant) just might re-instate her,” Murry responded.
Another audience question was how much of tax payer’s money has the board spent on this case?
Murry said he doesn’t have that information as of yet, but have filed a public records request.
“But I will tell you this much, the amount of money to bring in an arbitrator, who the Board went against, cost at least $600 a day,” he said.
The next audience question was who were the Board members who voted to terminate Speller?
Brenda Hill, president, and Dr. Cecelia Adams, vice president, both African American; and members Lisa Sobecki, a Caucasian, and Bob Vasquez, a Latino. Larry Sykes, who is black, voted against the firing.
“We need to get them out of office,” someone yelled.
Three seats are up for re-election in the fall. Hill, Vasquez and Sykes seats are opened for challenge.
Sykes is running for Toledo City Council and Hill is retiring. Vasquez is seeking reelection.
“I really think the board will make the right decision,” Murry said. “They’re very smart.”
However, Murry said Board members never heard testimony from witnesses about the allegations against Speller.
It was almost like they were receiving the information from another party as opposed to investigating it themselves, he said.
Meeks Speller spoke to the crowd and discussed her contributions to Toledo Public Schools.
She said she oversaw the demolishing and construction of the old and new buildings for DeVeaux Middle School; established a good working relationship with the surrounding community; and received good marks from her superiors.
Ms. Meeks Speller also talked about the time she was able to get a 9 mm pistol from a former student.
“If I was so bad to the children, there would’ve been no way that student would’ve given me that gun,” she said.
Pete Culp, retired city employee who was wrongfully terminated by the city of Toledo in 1989, added a few remarks.
“We have to hold the Democratic Party accountable for endorsing people that aren’t making good decisions when it relates to our children,” he said.
At the end of the forum, both Meeks Speller and Murry encouraged those present to attend the Board of Education special meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1, at 420 E. Manhattan.
“Everyone here needs to come to that meeting and bring someone with them,” Murry said. “We may not be able to speak, but if we fill every seat and only leave standing room, we will send a powerful message.”