A Toledo Native Who Exhibits Pride
November 01, 2023
Appears in November 2023: School Administrator.
One of the first things you might notice about Romules Durant is the TPS monogram on the collar of his dress shirt. Those letters stand for “Toledo Public Schools.”
Being a leader, a fan, a cheerleader and a fierce advocate for the Toledo schools — and the entire community of Toledo — is a central part of Durant’s identity. He calls it being “Toledo proud.” In fact, he’s so well known for his advocacy — and that monogram — that some young students have been known to dress up as Durant, complete with the same lettering on their shirts.
“There’s no one in town who doesn’t know Dr. Durant,” says Adam Levine, director and CEO of the Toledo Museum of Art, where Durant serves as a board member.
Durant is marking his 10th anniversary as CEO and superintendent of Toledo Public Schools this fall. Prior to assuming that leadership role, he was assistant superintendent for five years.
But he’s been tied to Toledo much longer. He grew up in the scrappy northern Ohio city, where he was a football star at Waite High School. He played football and received three academic degrees, including a doctorate, from the University of Toledo. He’s spent his entire professional career as an educator in Toledo.
Durant is grateful for those opportunities and support from the community. So now he works to provide opportunities he wishes he’d had to the district’s 23,000 students.
“I treat every child like they’re my own, and every parent wants their child to have better than what they had,” says the superintendent.
Key to his lengthy tenure are strong partnerships with local organizations. Durant serves on the boards of more than a dozen community groups, which often translates into important leadership connections, making the time commitment well spent. “That’s the way in,” he says.
Take the Toledo Museum of Art. A major focus of Durant’s tenure has been transforming schools by creating educational pathways for students to nurture their interests, develop skills and eventually find gainful employment, benefiting the entire community. Toward that end, he built a relationship with the art museum, which now is partnering with the district to create a new fine arts magnet school.
Durant is particularly proud of a partnership involving the district’s Aerospace and Natural Science Academy, a program for about 350 high schoolers. He also loves to extoll the opportunities created by $1.2 million in federal funding that’s advancing a state-of-the-art electric vehicle program at the Toledo Technology Academy, a magnet program for grades 7-12 where students learn repair skills for the burgeoning electric vehicle market. Earlier this year, Tesla agreed to train two of the academy’s teaching staff.
The superintendent notes that both schools have embedded industry certifications and college credits at no cost to students’ families.
The growth of students’ college- and career-readiness is evident. The district’s graduation rate has risen from 60 percent to 82 percent for four-year graduates and to 85 percent for five-year graduates. Those numbers include many children who grew up in poverty and homelessness in Toledo and might have otherwise given up.
“If you give people a purpose, you will give them the will to be driven,” Durant says.
Despite these all his successes, Durant doesn’t plan on slowing down. He continues to seek better options for his students.
“I think what makes Dr. Durant particularly special is a blend of his energy, his creativity and his authentic commitment to the community,” says Levine, the art museum director. “There’s no such thing as inertia for him. There’s no force that he can’t overcome.”
BIO STATS: ROMULES DURANT
Currently: CEO/superintendent, Toledo Public Schools, Toledo, Ohio
Previously: assistant superintendent, Toledo Public Schools
Greatest influence on career: My faith and family are two of the greatest influences in both my personal and professional life.
Best professional day: The first day of school. I felt that way from when I was a teacher, principal and now as a superintendent. Interacting with students and staff members reminds me of the tremendous impact public education has.
Books at bedside: Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki
Why I’m an AASA member: AASA encourages school administrators to connect with leaders from other districts and to share ideas, information and best practices.