Schools get a C for ‘crowded’; Student influx, changes in classroom use take toll

By Tom Troy and Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writers

By 1:36 every afternoon, Perrysburg High School seniors Kelly Rose and Brock Gan kow sky are out the door, done with school, along with dozens of other seniors.

The early departure is more than just a senior perk.

It’s one way Principal John Pertner is cutting down on the crowding in the hallways.

“If you have all your credits filled up, they schedule your class so you can get out,” Kelly, 17, said. “It’s getting worse.”

Students and administrators are jostling for space in some of Toledo’s suburban school districts.

Some examples:

* The school system in Bedford Township is busing kindergarteners and high school freshmen to rented space in a nearby church.

* At Fulton Elementary in Evergreen, the books have been moved out of the library into the auditorium and replaced with classroom space.

* At Perrysburg High School, portable buildings are being added at the rate of one a year.

This year, America’s public and private school population reached an all-time high of 52.2 million students, and that trend is expected to continue through 2007. Ohio’s public school enrollment of 1.8 million in 1994 is projected to decline 2.9 per cent during the period.

Even though the school-age population in the state is declining, outmigration from cities such as Toledo is putting enrollment pressure on the suburbs.

The boom will hit high schools hardest. Nationally, the number of high school students is expected to increase 13 per cent over the next decade. For Ohio, secondary enrollment will go up 3.6 per cent, the U.S. Department of Education projects.

“Portable classrooms and short-term solutions just don’t cut it,” Richard Riley, federal education secretary, said at a news conference last week. “Right now, school overcrowding is a local concern, but it has the potential to become a national crisis.”

For Bill Brownson, who works for a company that designs school buildings, that’s great news.

“Business is super,” said Mr. Brownson, an educational consultant for Buehrer Group of Maumee.

Mr. Brownson, a former northwest Ohio school superintendent, said U.S. schools have been in a building boom since about 1992.

His company has planned 20 school additions in the Toledo area in the last two years. Those additions are needed because older buildings now hold fewer students than they used to because of changes in the way schools are structured.

Rooms once reserved for classroom teaching have been given over to other purposes.

Vocational education requires larger work spaces and smaller classes; special-education students are taught in smaller groups. Early-childhood education initiatives such as Head Start require more space for younger children, and technology has meant more space put aside for computers.

“Opponents to bond issues always say, ‘I remember when we had 2,000 students in this district, and now you’ve got 1,700 and you’re saying it’s too crowded?'” Mr. Brownson said. “But the use of the classrooms has changed a lot.”

After years of housing construction, Perrysburg High School is showing the effects.

Enrollment in the high school last week was 1,356, more than 200 above what is considered to be the ideal capacity for the school.

“I swore the growth was going to stop five years ago,” Dr. Pertner said. “I didn’t think our economy could support it.”

Three attempts by the school board to pass a bond issue to build a $39 million high school were defeated by Perrysburg voters.

Inside Perrysburg High School, the crowding is being managed in several ways:

* As many as 230 seniors who have enough credits to qualify, or who are eligible to take courses at area colleges or universities, are allowed to leave the building early.

* Lunches are cut short by a few minutes so students departing the lunchroom won’t jam the door way in a bottleneck with incoming students.

* Classes that some students want – such as four requested sections of psychology that could not be scheduled – aren’t possible for lack of space and teachers.

* At least six teachers keep their class materials on carts, using the classrooms of teachers on planning breaks.

Dr. Pertner said there’s more to the crowding than just a lot of students bumping into each other in the halls and cafeteria.

It means the number of teachers and administrators doesn’t keep pace with the student population.

“You’re talking about building relationships with students,” Dr. Pertner said.

He wants to know the name of every student and make every student feel comfortable.

“Every kid ought to have someone they can turn to,” Dr. Pertner said.

In the last five years, enrollment in Perrysburg’s six schools has grown 18 per cent, from 3,560 in the fall of 1991 to 4,190 in fall of 1996.

Anthony Wayne High School in Whitehouse opened the school year with a $10 million addition to the high school, the latest construction made possible by a $13.4 million bond issue passed in May, 1995.

Last year, a new Waterville Elementary, built for $5 million, replaced the 1922 structure.

The 100,000-square-foot addition to the high school includes 24 classrooms, a gym that can seat 2,300 screaming fans, and a whisper-quiet auditorium with spacious walkways between the rows of seats.

And it’s an architectural marvel in its own way.

The classroom addition looks like a second floor, but it actually sits on piers drilled through the old school. A three-foot gap separates the two levels.

Anthony Wayne school district now could handle 800 more students, enough spare capacity that the district is considering adopting limited open enrollment from adjacent school districts next year.

“We’re looking at being fine for seven to 10 years,” Principal Robert Slykhuis said. Even in this gleaming new space, students are wall-to-wall at lunch and during class changes. And book bags aren’t allowed because they occupy too much space in classes and hallways.

In Bedford Township, the high school was built to hold between 1,100 and 1,300 students. Last year, it had 1,630.

Enrollment this fall was projected at 1,750. But after the start of school last week, the total had jumped to 1,820.

To deal with the crowding, the school board rented six classrooms at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, at a cost of $32,500 a year.

“We don’t consider it a long-term solution,” Superintendent William Hall said. “But if we can’t get a bond issue passed, it could become a long-term solution.”

He said the board is targeting March for an election, but he notes that no one can guess how many students the school system will have to service 10 or 15 years from now.

Sylvania schools have seen remarkable growth too, with 538 more students last year than five years ago.

The district – the second largest in northwest Ohio – has responded by building a junior high school and adding space to other buildings.

Timberstone Junior High School, a $10 million structure, opened last week. The structure’s design reduces hallway crowding.

The 575-student building is divided into classroom suites called “centrums,” six clusters of four classrooms each.

Each cluster, or centrum, has a math teacher, an English teacher, a science teacher, and a social studies teacher, along with about 100 students.

For most of the school day, the students don’t have to go into Timberstone’s main hallways to change classes.

But until the construction of the last year, Sylvania schools were overflowing.

Administrators banned students from using backpacks in the halls in part because they took up too much space.

“One principal said a kid with a backpack is the equivalent of one and a half kids,” Mary Himmelein, vice president of the Sylvania school board, said.

The Evergreen district, which straddles Fulton and Lucas coun ties, also has been growing: 15 per cent in the last five years. Those extra students have forced administrators to be creative with space. Besides putting the library on a stage, officials have converted closets to classrooms and changed showers into speech rooms. Some classes have as many as 29 students.

“For us, that’s too many to do a really good job with the kids,” Superintendent Russell Griggs said.

From kindergarten through 12th grade, Evergreen averages 24 students a class.

Locally, average class sizes range from 18.3 in Ottawa Hills to 24.7 in Woodmore school district.

But more people continue to move in. Housing starts in the sprawling Evergreen district are up, and the schools have had to turn down the requests of students in adjacent districts trying to take advantage of Evergreen’s open-enrollment policy.

Mr. Griggs said he is examining the possibility of a bond issue in May to fund construction. “We’re getting closer to being over packed,” he said. “We’re using almost every square inch of facilities we have.”

The same is true in the Otsego district, where the school system has set up classrooms in hallways with only partitions dividing them. Modular buildings to house six classrooms are to arrive this week. Closets and stages have become impromptu classrooms.

Superintendent Joe Long said the school system is investigating how better to use its facilities, but in the meantime, it has been forced to use money intended for roof repairs to obtain the modular buildings.

Even schools in cities such as Toledo – where the population has dropped 15 per cent since 1970 – are crowded.

Because of declining enrollment, Toledo Public Schools closed about a dozen schools in the early 1980s and closed two high schools in 1991.

But in 1995, one of the elementaries – Warren school near downtown – was reopened to relieve crowded north-end schools.

Since then, the city district has added 38 classrooms, many of those to handle special-education classes, David Coon, district main tenance director, says.

And last week, 10 new high school classrooms came on line with the opening of the Toledo Technology Academy in the former DeVilbiss High School in West Toledo.

George Tombaugh, superintendent of Springfield school district, has seen gradual growth since 1991, after a population burst in the 1980s in his district.

“What has created problems for many of us is the growth in programs, not so much students,” he said, citing things such as art, music, libraries, computer labs, and special-education services that have grown to consume school space.

“What we need to keep in mind is enrollment is actually decreasing across the state of Ohio. It’s mostly sprawl. If we did not have new construction in our school district, we would be declining in enrollment because the birthrate is down.”

Education Secretary Riley’s comments about crowding struck home with Perrysburg Superintendent Sharon Zimmers.

“I thought he was talking about Perrysburg,” she said. “We’re on the cusp of what’s happening nationally.”

She said Perrysburg makes greater academic demands on its students than Ohio’s education laws require.

“The quality you want to offer is a local decision,” she said. Reducing that demand is one way to free space in school. “It would also mean less science, less math, less English.”

Students drawn from all over; Strong marketing effort pushes university’s image

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page U4

Like any other college, the University of Toledo needs students.

When they haven’t been forthcoming locally, the university has had to look elsewhere. They may come from Cleveland or Columbus, Beijing or Bahrain, but to university officials, what’s most important isn’t where they come from, it’s where they end up. And for the last decade, UT has done very well in bringing them to Toledo.

Officials were quick to point out that most UT students are still from northwest Ohio, including 46 per cent from Lucas County. But statistics show that UT is now drawing much more heavily from outside the metropolitan Toledo area than it used to.

For the last decade, Lucas County has been producing fewer and fewer public high school graduates – the group traditionally most likely to attend UT. That number has dropped more than 10 per cent in the last six years alone. During that same period, the number of UT students from metro Toledo has dropped by more than 2,600.

Much of that gap has been taken up by students from Cleveland, Columbus, and the rest of Ohio. In 1986, only 15.8 per cent of in-state students at UT were from outside northwest Ohio. Last year, 27.6 per cent were.

University officials said that rise is the result of a conscious effort to push UT’s image statewide, an aggressive marketing campaign to bring in more students from outside Toledo.

“It was a normal evolution of recruitment,” said Scot Lingrell, UT’s associate director of high school relations. “We were looking for expanded markets.”

At the same time, UT became more attractive to students from across the state because of the addition of on-campus housing. A decade ago, there was only room for about 1,700 students to live in dorms. All freshmen were required to live on campus, but the rule was never enforced because there simply wasn’t room for them all.

Three major building projects in the 1990s have brought that total to nearly 2,900, and they’re almost completely full.

“We did it, in large part, for the number of students desiring to come from outside commuting distance,” said Wayne Gates, director of residential life.

For someone new to town, living on campus is often considered preferable to all the worries associated with finding an apartment in a strange place.

The new dorms have all been given themes: the McComas Village for fraternities and sororities, an academic house for honors students, and the International House for both foreign and domestic students. Each has been praised by students.

“It’s taken the stigma away from coming to Toledo,” said Kent Hopkins, UT’s enrollment manager.

Those dorms are high on the list of talking points for UT’s admissions counselors when they hit the road, talking to students around Ohio. The university now has five admissions counselors, each responsible for a separate region of the state. One of them handles Cleveland and its Cuyahoga County suburbs.

These counselors spend much of each fall traveling their regions, talking to students at high schools and at college night events.

“We’re taking the university on the road,” Mr. Hopkins said.

Each counselor spends anywhere between 5 and 12 weeks a year on the road, pushing UT to all comers, then spends the rest of the year following up on those contacts.

The key selling points are UT’s relatively low price, the new dorms, and the convenience of being close enough to home to visit on weekends, but far enough to avoid having Mom show up at the dorm at random hours. And anyone with an Ohio high school diploma is guaranteed admission.

Aside from attracting students, these trips help accomplish another university goal: getting UT’s name out across the region. Institutions drawing on a wider base of applicants are generally more respected than schools that are more parochial.

“The price of UT works well for a lot of families, and it’s a reasonable drive to most parts of the state,” said Sharon Anghilante, a guidance counselor at Rocky River High School in suburban Cleveland. “UT has been working hard to attract people to Toledo.”

Much of the credit for UT’s current popularity goes to the school’s admissions staff, she said. “UT has a very, very strong admissions office,” she said. She singled out a video the university put together for prospective students a few years ago as one of the best she’d seen.

“That video really pumped kids up and got them excited about the school.”

UT’s recruitment efforts don’t stop at the state line, either. Colleges like UT can buy lists of students fitting certain characteristics from the major testing companies. For example, a school could purchase the names and addresses of every Asian-American student in suburban Des Moines with SAT scores over 1400.

Each year, UT targets a few areas that, over the years, have sent multiple students to Toledo. As a result, students with high test scores in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., Cicero, Ill., Rockville, Md., and Sharon Hill, Pa. often receive letters in the mail from the UT admissions office asking them to consider four years in northwest Ohio.

“We might have a really good admissions counselor there, or we might have an alum there who is really promoting the school,” Mr. Lingrell said.

One other group UT has done well in attracting is international students, mostly from Asia and the Middle East. The university enrolls just under 1,600 international students, and a Chronicle of Higher Education study last December said UT ranked seventh in the country in the percentage of doctoral degrees going to international students.

Officials said Toledo’s ethnic mix plays a large part.

“The No. 1 one reason people come here is through friends and family in the area,” said Dawn Malone of UT’s Office of International Services.

Last year, UT enrolled 344 students from India, 292 from China, 158 from Malaysia, and 77 from Kuwait.

Ms. Malone said the university recruits through embassies in foreign lands and through agreements with 72 other colleges worldwide. Through the agreements, UT students are allowed to attend college overseas for a semester, while foreign students come to Toledo.

Judy Hample, UT’s senior vice president for academic affairs, said UT does a better job than most schools in bringing international students into the mainstream of campus life.

“The fact that the homecoming king and queen last year were both international is pretty unusual,” she said.

Site of fire memorial to be rededicated as Chub DeWolfe Park

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

After years of confusion, the city of Toledo is being clear: The downtown triangle of land next to The Blade building is Chub DeWolfe Park.

The park was named for William T. “Chub” DeWolfe, a longtime Toledo newspaper columnist, more than a half-century ago. But the park never has had a sign with its name.

For years, many mistakenly have called it Memorial Park because it has a sculpture dedicated to city firefighters killed in the line of duty.

The city will clear up the confusion next month by officially rededicating the park in Mr. DeWolfe’s name.

“The original name of the park was overlooked when it became a home for the monument,” said Ross Hamre, the city’s commissioner of open-space planning. “We wanted to correct that omission.”

The correction will take place during a Sept. 18 ceremony, officials said. A bronze plaque with Mr. DeWolfe’s name will be installed on a gray granite pedestal in the park.

Mr. DeWolfe was a reporter for three newspapers here: the Toledo Bee, the News-Bee, and the Toledo Press. But he became most famous for his years as a columnist for The Blade.

His “Among the Folks” column ran for more than two decades and provided a colorful look at the everyday goings-on of Toledo residents. It was enormously popular across northwest Ohio, and his death in 1948 was mourned throughout the region.

“He was loved, admired, and respected not only by Toledoans but by thousands of residents of other communities,” said a resolution of mourning passed by the Toledo council after his death.

At Mr. DeWolfe’s funeral, the presiding minister said the columnist serviced the “largest congregation in all northwest Ohio.”

It is unclear when the park was named for Mr. DeWolfe, but the name was in use during his lifetime.

His obituary, published in The Blade in 1948, refers to the triangle of land bounded by Beech, Huron, and Orange streets as Chub DeWolfe Park.

The name of the park fell into disuse sometime after 1962, when the city installed The Last Alarm, dedicated to four firefighters killed in a tanker truck blast on the Anthony Wayne Trail in 1961.

Some later news reports have referred to the land incorrectly as “Memorial Park.”

Mr. DeWolfe’s surviving relatives were pleased by news of the rededication.

“I was really surprised, but it’s a very nice gesture,” said Mr. DeWolfe’s grandson, Bill DeWolfe of Morrison, Colo.

He said he recalled his grandfather telling stories of storming San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders while covering the Spanish-American War in 1898.

He also remembered that, even as a child, he was taller than his grandfather, who stood only 4 feet, 11 inches tall.

Obituary: James Coleman

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 16

FREMONT — James Coleman, a third-generation businessman here, died Monday at his home of cancer. He was 65.

Mr. Coleman lived his entire life in Fremont, where his family has owned and operated a heating and repair business for decades. His grandfather, Raymond Coleman, founded the company and passed it on to his son, Raymond, Jr.

When his grandfather died in 1981, the business, Ray Coleman Heating and Sheet Metal, was passed on to Mr. Coleman. Now, the business will be taken over by two of Mr. Coleman’s sons, Michael and James Coleman.

“It was very important to him that we keep the family business going,” his son Kent said.

His wife, Phyllis Coleman, said he truly enjoyed his work.

“He loved meeting with all the people,” she said. “He was happy to be able to serve them.”

The couple met when a mutual friend introduced them. After he served in the navy during the Korean War, they wed in 1955.

In his spare time, Mr. Coleman loved to bowl and had a 160 average. He enjoyed taking vacations, particularly to Naples, Fla.

His family said he was kind-hearted and always willing to help out around in any situation.

“If I ever had a problem around the house, I’d call him and he’d usually be able to work it out over the phone,” his son Kent said. “If not, he’d drive out and fix it.

“If he taught me one thing, it was ‘take care of your family.'”

Surviving are his wife, Phyllis; sons Michael, James, and Chris; daughter Jody Coleman; six grand children and two step grand children.

Services will be held tomorrow at 11 a.m. at Wonderly-Horvath Funeral Home, 425 East State St., Fremont, where the body will be between 3 and 5 p.m. and between 7 and 9 p.m. today. Burial will follow at the Oakwood Cemetery.

The family requests tributes be made to Hospice of Memorial Hospital, Fremont, and the Class of 1950 Scholarship Fund at Fremont Ross High School.

Obituary: Ruth Rudinger

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 21

Ruth Rudinger, a tireless volunteer for local theaters and Jewish groups, died Friday of a stroke at Darlington House. She was 83.

She was born Ruth Rosenberg in 1914 in Cleveland. Her father was a chemist; her mother the local head of the American Red Cross. Friends introduced her to Irving Rudinger, and they soon were married.

Mr. Rudinger decided to open a clothing store in Toledo, so the family moved here in 1945. They opened Colony Men’s and Boy’s Wear on Central Avenue, where Mrs. Rudinger kept the books and occasionally sold clothes.

“It was a really fashionable store,” said Susan Rudinger, her daughter. “They sold top quality clothes.”

While her husband ran the business, Mrs. Rudinger devoted her time to an array of causes in northwest Ohio. Mrs. Rudinger volunteered her time to the Toledo Museum of Art, the Toledo Zoo, Crosby Gardens, the Sylvania Public Library Association, the Girl Scouts, and more than a dozen other area organizations.

“I’ve never met anyone in my life who loved life as much as she did,” her daughter said. “If anyone needed help, she was always there.”

To help the blind, she hosted a weekly radio program in which she read highlights from the newspapers to a seven-county audience.

But her greatest love was for the theater. She supported nearly every theater company in town, and acted and directed plays into her 70s. She served as an usher in local theaters into her 80s.

“She loved being on stage,” her daughter said.

Mrs. Rudinger was one of the leaders of Toledo’s Jewish community, serving as president of B’nai B’rith in the 1960s. She taught Sunday school for 45 years, giving lectures and presentations on Judaism. She designed Hanukkah services for children that have been used nationwide.

She merged two of her loves in the Center Players, a theater troupe she founded at the Jewish Community Center on Sylvania Avenue.

Surviving are daughter, Susan Rudinger; two sons, Joel and Jonathan Rudinger, and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held today at 11 a.m. at Temple Shomer Emunim, 6453 Sylvania Avenue, Sylvania.

The family requests tributes be made to the charity of the donor’s choice.

Police search for 2 in shooting at store

By Joshua Benton and Robin Erb
Blade Staff Writers

Page 13

Police continued their search yesterday for two men who shot a central-city store owner in a botched robbery attempt Monday night. And they’re answering the phones.

In an outpouring of public concern, police and hospital officials have fielded more than 50 calls from citizens asking about Suleman “Sam” Odetallah, 51, who was in serious condition last night in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

But police have no suspects in the crime that has rocked the neighborhood surrounding Mr. Odetallah’s store, the Brazil Market, at Indiana Avenue and 11th Street.

Lemon Larance, 58, a store employee, said he was watching a small television when the men burst in. One stood near the doorway; the other began demanding money from Mr. Odetallah. Both wore handkerchiefs over their faces and both carried handguns.

Mr. Larance said he froze.

“This dude is standing there waving a gun,” he said. “I didn’t want to turn around and look. I didn’t know what he was going to do. I just stood there.”

The man near the cash register vaulted over the counter. He and Mr. Odetal lah began struggling, and the second man fired once at the store owner.

The two men fled on foot toward the Port Lawrence Homes, apparently without any money.

Mr. Odetallah, a bullet in his throat, staggered outside and collapsed, while Mr. Larance ran to a nearby fire station for help.

In the Brazil’s neighborhood – filled with busy downtown entry streets, old office buildings, and low-income families – the store is the only place to go for the necessities of day-to-day life.

Yesterday, the store was closed.

“It’s a shame one person can take away something from the whole community,’ said Francisca Miller, who would pick up a lunchtime bag of Fritos at the Brazil most days. “For people without transportation, there’s nothing within walking distance.”

Besides the Brazil, the nearest store is at least 10 blocks away, according to Paula Nobles, a receptionist across the street. “I don’t know where I’ll go now.”

“Sam’s my buddy,” said Tammy Foster, who has lived across the street from the store for the last five years. Ms. Foster always took barbecue sandwiches to Mr. Odetallah whenever she made them.

“He’s just a very sweet person. He always gave me credit when I needed it, and he was nice to everybody.

“Now I’m going to have to go to the east side,” she said. “I’m scared of the east side.”

Residents said the shop is the neighborhood’s center, the one place everyone from all levels of society went at one time or another. “I was there all the time,” said Loulamae Noble, an employee at the St. Vincent de Paul Society store, which is next door to the Brazil. “TV dinners, potato chips, ice cream – basic stuff.

“The only thing wrong was those cigars he smokes. I couldn’t stand them,” she said.

Even people who barely know Mr. Odetallah benefitted from his generosity. Soon after Tarina McFadden moved into the LMHA housing complex four months ago, two youths, each about 8 years old, stole a check from her mailbox and went to the market to try to cash it.

But Mr. Odetallah immediately called police and hand-delivered the check to Mrs. McFadden’s door.

“He’s a really nice person,” she said. “He went out of his way for me, and I was new in the neighborhood.”

Collectors stuck on toothpicks; Group holds convention in Toledo Hilton

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 12

Let’s say you’ve got a few million toothpicks lying around the house. They cover the floors, make sitting on the couch uncomfortable, and generally are a nuisance.

You’re in luck.

The three-inch tall solutions to your problem can be found at the Toledo Hilton, where the National Toothpick Holder Collectors Society concludes its national convention today.

And if you’re like anyone else who has seen the signs promoting their gathering, you’re asking yourself one question:


“There’s a lot of sentimental value in these toothpicks,” said Judy Knauer, who founded the society 24 years ago. (In the dialect of the toothpick holder collector, one need only say “toothpick” to refer to their holders. People know what you’re talking about.)

The thousands of holders assembled in Toledo this week aren’t being used to hold wooden toothpicks. Ms. Knauer, who owns about 1,400 holders, said she only uses them seasonally – the manger-scene toothpick holder at Christmas, the patriotic holders on July 4th, and so on.

Ms. Knauer got stuck on them when, as a girl, she received a holder from her Great Aunt Bertha. While it was only a “souvenir class” holder, she was hooked.

Toothpick holders are big business. Many sell for hundreds of dollars, and particularly rare items – like the turn-of-the-century Holly Amber with pedestal, of which only three are known to exist – run well past $1,000.

So for many society members, collecting is more than an obsession – it’s an investment. “If I sold my collection, we could pay off the house tomorrow,” said Lorraine Holt, the convention’s chairman and a resident of Adrian. She owns about 350 holders.

About 170 collectors are at this weekend’s convention, and Ms. Knauer estimates more than 3,000 people nationwide collect toothpick holders. “But most do it in their own little world until they stumble upon our society,” she said. “Then they see that other people do it too.”

But behind all the fun, collectors often face despair. You see, sometimes they find that one of their prized toothpick holders might not, in fact, be a true toothpick holder. It might even be – gasp! – a matchstick holder or a shot glass, the two great enemies of toothpick holder collectors.

“Every member’s had that happen to them,” Ms. Knauer said.

It takes years of intense study to be able to determine whether an object was intended to hold matchsticks, toothpicks, or whiskey. (Hint: look for a place to strike matches or slightly inclined sides. An authentic toothpick holder has neither.)

Scholars continue to work tirelessly to discover more about genuine toothpick holders every day. And 10 times a year, society members get a copy of Toothpick Bulletin in their mailbox. Its goal: keeping readers up to date on the latest cutting-edge research in the fast-paced world of toothpick holder collecting. Since she founded the society, Ms. Knauer has been the Bulletin’s editor.

“I get so many love letters,” she said. “People saying, ‘I wish I could get a Bulletin every week!'”

“I can tell you that the minute the Bulletin arrives in a member’s house, it’s read,” said Fred Phelps, the society’s president and mayor of Colesburg, Ia., population 361. “Before the bills, before the correspondence from the local mortuary, it’s read. It’s the nerve center.”

While collectors are steadfast in their devotion to holders, they can appreciate other collectibles. Some collect the toothpick holder’s natural companion piece, the spoon holder. A few even collect shot glasses. Ms. Holt’s husband is a big collector of “ceramic German figural giveaway bottles.”

But, in the end, the avid collector always returns to toothpicks, not least because of the bonds between society members. There are about 100 “hard-core” members who make the convention year in and year out, including some who no longer buy toothpick holders.

They just come for the fun.

“It’s just a different type of person who does this,” Mr. Phelps said. The convention concludes today with an exhibit of toothpick holders open to the public, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hilton, 3100 Glendale Ave.

Kaptur calls for Ohio campaign finance reform

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 3

CLEVELAND — U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) yesterday attacked the campaign finance system she says puts government in the hands of a few wealthy donors, and issued a challenge to Ohio politicians to abandon millions of dollars worth of fund-raising.

Her remarks were made at the City Club of Cleveland, which for decades has counted among its members many of the area’s richest and most powerful citizens.

“I don’t think real reform will come from the federal level,” she said. “But in Ohio, we have a chance to do it ourselves.”

“This wasn’t for the tea and crumpets crowd,” Miss Kaptur said after her speech. She repeatedly challenged what she sees as Ohio’s political power base – the state’s wealthy and the voters of metro Cleveland – to push for political change.

“Clevelanders, listen! Clevelanders, listen! Use your considerable influence as the state’s most populous region to force change,” she said.

In a fiery, statistics-filled half-hour, Miss Kaptur lambasted the campaign finance system and the ongoing attempts to reform it. She called the U.S. Senate campaign finance hearings “an illusion” and said they’ve produced no real action.

“Nothing has happened. Only hot air has happened.”

Political campaigns revolve around the cycles of fund-raising, she said, tying politicians to the interests of lobbyists and the wealthy and distancing them from constituents. And, she argued, the problem is just as severe in Ohio as it is in the federal government.

She pointed to Cincinnati, where she said campaign spending for eight city council seats – each of them a $46,000-per-year job – topped $2.3 million in 1995. A single family gave more than $300,000 to candidates during a four-year stretch in the 1990s.

Saying she doesn’t expect any substantial action from Congress, Miss Kaptur challenged all statewide candidates in Ohio to limit their spending levels voluntarily. “Individual candidates can lead the way by promising to abide by reasonable limits,” she said. “Unrealistic? No. It’s called leadership.”

She specifically targeted Cleveland’s native son, Governor Voinovich, who is expected to be the Republican candidate for Democrat John Glenn’s U.S. Senate seat in 1998. Mr. Glenn has announced he will not seek re-election.

“Governor Voinovich already has $3 million banked for his Senate race,” Miss Kaptur said. “Why doesn’t he stop there and challenge statewide candidates to limit spending to no more than $3 million?

“His motto has been doing more with less. So why not try it himself?”

Governor Voinovich raised more than $8.2 million for his 1990 run for governor, she said, $1.9 million of it from only 42 contributors.

Too many members of Congress are too wealthy to relate to their constituents, Miss Kaptur said. About 30 per cent of senators and a similar number of representatives are millionaires.

“The Congress is a human institution, and the laws we write embody the life experience and knowledge of our members,” Miss Kaptur said. “So, when average citizens question whether Congress can identify with their plight, they might well ask themselves: ‘Which members of Congress have walked in my shoes?'”

She suggested electing more people of more modest means to Congress as a way to increase trust in the federal government, and such talk led some in the audience to believe Miss Kaptur – the daughter of a small grocer and a factory worker – might be considering a run for the Senate.

Some Ohio Democrats have asked Miss Kaptur to run, and high-profile appearances like this one in Cleveland would be crucial to such a campaign.

In the prepared text of her speech, Miss Kaptur did not include former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Mary Boyle, a Democrat, in a list of Ohio women elected to high office. Ms. Boyle has announced her candidacy for the Senate seat.

But she added Ms. Boyle to her remarks, calling her a “very able officeholder in Cuyahoga County.”

Afterwards, Miss Kaptur said she will not run for the Senate and will seek re-election to her Ninth District House seat.

Levy’s rejection draws mixture of disappointment and relief

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 17

At 5 feet, 1 inch tall, 17-year-old Beth Laux has a tough time navigating the halls of Perrysburg High School.

During the four minutes she has between classes, she and more than 1,000 of her schoolmates burst out of their classrooms and scamper hurriedly to their lockers and their next classes.

And, as overcrowded as Perrysburg High is now, that’s no small feat.

“Everyone’s got these big bookbags, and it’s easy to get lost in the middle of the crowd,” Beth said. Several times, she’s feared for her safety in the swarm.

During her 30-minute lunch period, she often spends 25 of them in a long line to get food. In the restrooms, there are often five or six people in line ahead of her.

“I don’t think people realize how crowded it is,” Beth said. “You get knocked around all the time.”

That overcrowding was the reason school board officials proposed, for the third time, a $42.9-million bond issue to build a larger high school. The current Perrysburg High School was built to hold 1,105 students; it now holds 1,289, a number projected to rise further in the future.

When voters rejected that measure Tuesday, Beth said she was “very disappointed” at their decision.

But many citizens in downtown Perrysburg yesterday considered the levy a waste of available money and facilities, and were overjoyed at the news that it had been defeated.

“I’m so happy,” said Kathy Bayer, a hairstylist at the Kimmy-Kay Beauty Salon. “You’d think after three tries, the school board would learn that people in town just don’t want it.”

Ron Mossing, who owns more than $1 million worth of property in Perrysburg, has coffee every morning with about a dozen friends.

Yesterday morning, he did an informal poll of their votes the day before. Only one man said he had favored the bond issue.

“They know something has to be done about crowding, but they don’t feel it was necessary to use all that money on a new school with all the frills,” Mr. Mossing said.

Many observers have said the debate divided along cultural lines: citizens who have lived in Perrysburg for generations against those who have arrived in the last 10 years.

Many newcomers are young couples with above-average incomes and children. While their influx is a cause of the high school’s overcrowding, many also are willing to pay for the new school.

On the other hand, many older residents have ties to the current high school and, without young children, less desire for higher property taxes.

I think because they’re in Perrysburg, the school board thinks they’ll keep getting money, money, money,” said Ms. Bayer, who lived in town 30 years before moving out. “Not everybody in Perrysburg can afford to keep giving.”

But some proponents of the levy said the city’s wealth – including many highly valued homes – should guarantee that schools receive all the funding they need.

“I’m sad that we live in a community that is rich in everything – beautiful homes, nice parks – and we can’t do this,” said a Perrysburg High alum who has lived in town 21 years but declined to be identified.

“I think the older people in this town need to realize the school system is what’s giving them a nice place to live in. I’m personally embarrassed to say I live in Perrysburg,” she said.

Levy opponents argued an addition to the school could alleviate crowding at a lower price.

“This is the first time I’ve ever voted ‘no’ on anything Perrysburg schools wanted,” said Tom Kazmaier, who has spent 40 years in town. “But it’s just not the best use of the current facilities.”

He said the school board stubbornly stuck by its plan and was unwilling to examine other alternatives. “They need to get a little more input from citizens,” he said.

“We were hoping it would pass,” said Anne Kilpatrick, who was shopping downtown with her three children: Emily, 11; Lindsay, 9 1/2; and Kelly, 3. “The schools are too crowded as it is. It can’t continue this way.”

She said Emily spent the last school year in a portable building.

State workers stage 1-day protest strike

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 11

In the first organized strike of state employees in Ohio history, more than 2,000 workers took yesterday off.

Service Employees International Union District 1199 officials called the one-day strike to protest what they consider the state’s attempt to reduce their salaries. Union members are working without a contract, and state negotiators have proposed lowering the rate at which salaries increase with experience.

“It is ludicrous that they want to cut our pay when the state has a $900 million budget surplus,” said David Regan, the union’s president.

At daybreak, picketers gathered at 11 prisons across the state, including three in Lima – the Allen, Lima, and Oakwood Correctional Institutions.

In Toledo, officials said most state offices absorbed the loss of manpower without much difficulty. At least five offices at One Government Center were affected by the strike, but none reported an inability to provide services.

At the Toledo office of the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation, for example, only 12 of the 92 employees are members of District 1199, 10 of whom went on strike. According to spokesman Jim Samuel, their jobs – as nurses and rehabilitation specialists – were done mostly by supervisors and coworkers.

Some work was pushed back to today, when the employees return to work, he said.

The union represents 4,500 state employees in a wide range of fields, from doctors to parole officers, chaplains to nursing home inspectors. Of those, about 500 are in the Toledo area, union spokesman Pat Glynn said.

In Toledo’s adult parole authority offices, 20 of 22 unionized parole officers walked out, leaving supervisors to check on the city’s felons, said Joe Andrews, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.

“We are continuing to provide services to anyone who needs them,” he said. “There’s nobody left out.”

Management and union officials gave different estimates on the turnout for the strike. Stephen Gulyassy, head of the state’s collective bargaining office, said only about 50 per cent of union members stayed home. Mr. Regan called that “completely inaccurate” and said about three-quarters of workers honored the strike.

The union held a noon rally at the state capitol in Columbus, which Mr. Regan said attracted almost 1,500 workers and supporters. Mr. Gulyassy put the number at only “a few hundred.”

The Associated Press estimated the number at 800 to 1,000.

Mr. Gulyassy said the state wants to reduce the bonus pay received by veteran state employees.

For example, a parole worker with 20 years of experience receives a 20 per cent annual bonus to account for his or her seniority. For other state employees, he said, that number is 10 per cent.

Mr. Regan said the union would be happy with the same contract they’ve had the last three years.

The strike was the beginning of an unusual labor tactic. Union officials said that, until they get a contract, they will call one-day strikes once every two weeks.

Mr. Gulyassy said he believes the move was a poor decision. “With only one day out, the most you can say is it’s inconvenient,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a very good tactic.”

Union officials disagreed, saying it maximizes the effects of a strike while minimizing the cost to the rank and file.

“It’s a nontraditional, strategic method of striking. It’s designed to get the most bang for our buck on any given day,” Mr. Glynn said.

No further negotiations are scheduled.