Volunteers throughout Toledo Public Schools were honored at the 4th annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon held on Thursday, May 14.

There were parents and grandparents of current students who work in a school's library or cafeteria, retired educators who spend hours tutoring young students in reading and representatives of organizations whose employees dedicate nights and weekends to raising money for TPS students. The crowd was estimated to be about 200 people but there are countless more unsung heroes in the district.

As Dr. Romules Durant, CEO/superintendent of TPS, gratefully told the volunteers gathered at the UAW Local 12 hall, "Your presence in the classroom means you are changing students' lives."

Eight individuals received special recognition as Outstanding Volunteers, while three were honored as Outstanding Community Partners. Here is a little something about each:

Arlington Elementary had two women – Fran Rideout and Leona Stivers – honored this year. They were nominated by different people for different reasons but they share a long-term devotion to the school’s children.

Fran Rideout retired as a teacher from Arlington in 1999 but has been volunteering ever since in Cathy Stewart’s fourth-grade classroom. Ms. Stewart was a student at Arlington in 1974 when Ms. Rideout was a sixth grade teacher so they’ve known each other a long time.
“Fran is 88-years-old and comes at least once a week to tutor my fourth-grade students,” Ms. Stewart wrote in her nomination letter. “It doesn’t matter the weather. She strives to be there to assist children every week. She has a true love for teaching and her former students. That is what gives her the passion to continue to make a difference in the lives of children, even after all these years.”
Ms. Stewart added: “We love Fran and want you to know your legacy will remain in our hearts forever!”

The second outstanding volunteer from Arlington is Leona Stivers, nominated because of the 20-plus years she has been a volunteer.

Melisa Viers, Arlington’s assistant principal, wrote of Ms. Stivers’ dedication to serving lunch daily, of how she remembers every child’s name and birthday, how she brings in treats for the students.

“[She] acts as a positive role model for everyone. Since she is a member of the neighborhood, the children trust and respect her,” Ms. Viers said.

When her transportation fails her, Ms. Stivers will often walk to the school so she doesn’t miss a day.

“It is a rare day when she is not at Arlington Elementary,” Ms. Viers wrote.


Stan Bojanowski, known as Uncle Sonny at Burroughs Elementary, was nominated by John Preston for his willingness to pass on the love of his sport. Mr. Bojanowski owns Amur Golf.

“Uncle Sonny volunteers and teaches golf to our students. He donates a great deal of time and money to help our students,” Mr. Preston wrote.


Jack Hunter, principal of Chase STEM Academy, nominated Rick Morris.

He wrote, “I nominate Rick Morris as he has become a steward for Toledo Public Schools, specifically in the north end.”

Mr. Hunter said when he started making changes at the school as a new principal last year, “Mr. Morris took notice and transferred his students to Chase from a charter. He volunteers multiple days at the school and helps to mentor the youth.”

Mr. Hunter added, “He is also instrumental in helping to bridge the gap between school and community. With his leadership in the community, the people have a voice through him and can begin to be connected to TPS again.”

Karen Ratigan, a third grade teacher at Harvard Elementary, nominated Kelly Schmidt. Although Mrs. Schmidt helps in a variety of ways at the school, including lunchroom duty for the older grades, it is her role as a reading tutor that Ms. Ratigan focused on.

Ms. Ratigan said she first met Ms. Schmidt when she taught her granddaughter four years ago.

“She has generously given her time to tutor some of my struggling students ever since,” Ms. Ratigan wrote. “She is a compassionate, kind and caring tutor.”

Because Mrs. Schmidt is a former teacher, she is able to share her love of learning and strategies for making more confident readers, Ms. Ratigan said.

“My students recognize her as friendly, helpful and kind. She consistently comes three times a week at a time that works well with the students’ schedules. She is very conscious of making sure the students she works with don’t miss important class time.”

Shelly Sizemore is an active volunteer at Keyser Elementary where her son, Andrew, is in second grade, and was shocked when her name was called during the luncheon.

Principal Edward Kaser, Jr. nominated her for the many hats she wears at the school, including helping in the main office, handling lunch period for the youngest students and being a leader of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization.

“When Shelly says, ‘Keyser Elementary, parent volunteer, how may I help you?’ many parents know it is her because of her friendly voice,” Mr. Kaser wrote. “She jumps in and assists students with comfort and a Band Aid or an ice pack if needed. She goes above and beyond when asked to help in the office, especially when preparing for events with the assistant principal.”

Mr. Kaser added, “One thing is for sure. When Mrs. Sizemore is not here, everyone wonders where she is. Keyser is proud to have Ms. Shelly and we wish every school could have a Mrs. Sizemore.”


Jane Empey was nominated as an Outstanding Volunteer by Sherrie Brown of Pickett Academy.

Ms. Brown wrote, “Jane Empey has been an amazing mentor for our children for 16 years. Jane goes above and beyond each year while always recruiting new mentors for our students and bringing in treats and extra rewards and incentives for them as well.”

Ms. Brown continued, “There are no words to describe Jane’s commitment to our school and children. She is unique and like no other. She is an amazing woman [who] we are so fortunate to have on our Pickett Team.


Michael Alexander, a volunteer at Scott High School, was called 'an unsung hero' by Principal Treva Jeffries.

She wrote, “He often advocates on behalf of the school within the public realm and through his position at the United Way and the UAW. Michael often purchases tickets for athletic events to be given to deserving students who may not be able to afford a game ticket.”

Ms. Jeffries continued, “In addition, he encourages local businesses to contribute financially and through time investment in the school. We truly appreciate all that he does to support the school behind the scenes.”

Three Community Partners were also honored for their devotion to the students of Toledo Public Schools.

The first was Dana Holding Corp., nominated by Dale Price of Toledo Technology Academy.

Mr. Price says that the late CEO of Dana, Joe Magliochetti, was instrumental in helping the first robotics team get started at TTA in the fall of 1998 and the company’s support has never wained.

“The TTA-Dana partnership won the National Championship in 2001 and continues to be a dominant team in the [national] program today,” Mr. Price wrote. “Dana’s support of TTA and Joe’s team has never wavered, even during bankruptcy. While eliminating many items in the corporate budget, Dana never dropped [its] support of robotics.”

He added, “Dana has long encouraged its employees to work with the high school students and we have 4 ‘Dana Mentors’ [who] have been with the team for over 16 years.”

The next two recipients were nominated for the same type of program – providing coats to students – but one is a large organization whose roots go back 85 years while the other is a minister who started a church nearly 40 years and spearheads clothing drives for specific schools.

The Old Newsboys Goodfellow Association, nominated by Emilio Ramirez, is the first of the two.

Mr. Ramirez wrote in part: “Old Newsboys has always been a 100 percent charity organization. This means no one is paid. Over the past 85 years, Old Newsboys Goodfellows and the citizens of Toledo have given millions of dollars to needy youth to support shoes and coats. Over the last 30 years, Old Newsboys branched out to help youth in other ways such as emergency food vouchers, emergency donations for house fire victims, youth scholarships and other donations that involve needy youth.”

Just this year, Mr. Ramirez wrote, Old Newsboys has helped Toledo Public Schools and its youth by providing the following:
• $100,000 – For shoes, coats and gloves for TPS students
• $20.000 – For emergency housing needed after fires and other emergencies
• $15,000 – For emergency food vouchers
• $40,000 – For TPS college scholarships
• $20,000 – For one time assistance to support TPS elementary schools with school supplies for needy students

Mr. Ramirez concluded: That’s $195,000 for just one year of assistance … Over 85 years, the number is staggering.”


Also honored for donating clothes to TPS students was Rev. Johnny Hobbs, Jr., the pastor of Greater St. John C.O.G.I.C. on West Sylvania Avenue.

Reverend Hobbs founded the church in 1976 and has been involved in a number of community ministries, writes Brenda Davis. Pastor Hobbs runs his own barbershop business on Detroit Avenue and he and the church’s first lady, Eleanor, have been married for 46 years.

“The ministry of providing free coats to school children is very important to Pastor Hobbs and Greater St. John,” wrote Ms. Davis. “Throughout the past seven years, Greater St. John has blessed Pickett, Mayfair, Ella P. Stewart and recently, in December 2014, Reynolds and Old Orchard Elementary schools.“
She added: “I certainly hope you find Pastor Johnny Hobbs, Jr., worth of this award.”.

Posted on May 14, 2015