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Toronto board accepts park, applauds business’ support

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EXPRESSING THANKS — The Toronto Board of Education has recognized Priority Life Care, a family business with ties to the city, for its contributions to Red Knights athletic teams through nomination to the Ohio School Board Association’s Business Honor Roll. On hand for a personal expression of thanks were, from left: Board President Andy Reeves, Debbie Petras, vice president of soul at Priority Life Care; and her husband, Bob Petras Sr.; and Superintendent Maureen Taggart. Priority Life Care also is headed by the Petras’ son and daughter, Bob Jr. and Sevy Petras Wells. — Warren Scott

TORONTO — On Thursday, the Toronto Board of Education accepted the transfer of Michael Simpson Park from the city to the school district, participation in a program that will make driver education available to students and recognized a business with ties to the Gem City for its outstanding support.

Earlier this week, Toronto Council agreed to transfer the 2.21 acre park near the school district’s campus to the school district after learning of plans by school officials to install artificial turf for its softball field and make other improvements there.

On Thursday, Superintendent Maureen Taggart said plans call for money from the district’s school improvement fund to be used for the artificial turf.

She said other improvements are being eyed, including the addition of video cameras to improve security at the site, but much is still in the planning stages.

Taggart said the turf itself will require preliminary planning, including possibly engineering, but its installation before the school’s spring softball season is not entirely out of the question.

The field also is used by a fall softball league affiliated with the city.

Taggart said when the park was transferred to the city for $1 in 2015, it was understood that the property would later revert back to the school district.

Taggart noted since then, the city has used grant money to make many improvements there, including the addition of an indoor batting facility and creation of a new dugout, concession stand and press box.

“We’re extremely appreciative of everything the city did to improve the park,” she said.

The school board also took time to express thanks to the owners of Priority Life Care for their strong support of the high school’s athletic programs through the last several years.

The board nominated the business to the Ohio School Board Association’s Business Honor Roll, saying it has been “a beacon of support for Toronto City Schools, particularly in bolstering the district’s athletic programs.”

Based in Wintersville and Fort Wayne, Ind., Priority Life Care provides independent and assisted living accommodations to senior citizens in several states.

Representing Priority Life Care at the meeting were Debbie Petras, vice president of soul for the company; and her husband, Bob; who accepted the honor on behalf of their children, Sevy Petras Wells, who serves as chief executive officer; and Bob Jr., its chief operating officer.

Taggart said, “Over the past six seasons, Priority Life Care has exemplified unparalleled generosity, providing substantial financial backing to Toronto High School’s football program. Their commitment has been exemplified through various initiatives, including a consistent $2,000 annual contribution as a top-tier field sponsor. Additionally, the company extended its support by furnishing every football player with Nike shoes and backpacks, amounting to an estimated yearly investment of $5,000.”

She added, “Last spring, Priority Life Care pledged a substantial $10,000 upfront donation, along with an additional $5,000 for the subsequent two years, earmarked for naming the locker room. This significant contribution empowered the program to acquire alternate sets of helmets, ensuring each player possessed two helmets for enhanced safety.”

Taggart and Board President Andy Reeves noted donations from the business also covered fees and meals for students attending athletic camps and travel bags, warm-up clothing and other gear for the girls basketball team.

Debbie Petras said she would like to help the female athletic teams more and offered to cover the cost of school meals who have been unable to pay for them.

A Toronto High School graduate, she said, “Whenever we do something for the schools, I think of my high school self and how I would have benefited.”

“There are so many great things you can do with the right mentors. It’s a privilege and honor for us,” she said.

Reeves told them, “I know the kids in our school really appreciate your efforts.”

The board also entered into an agreement allowing the Jefferson County Educational Service Center to provide driving instruction to its high school students.

Taggart said the center secured a grant to provide the instruction to students in all of the county’s school districts, and a one-year agreement with the agency calls for Toronto City Schools to pay $12,975 to secure a car and trained instructor.

She said there will be a cost for parents but that’s not been determined.

Taggart didn’t know how many days of in-car instruction students will receive through the course, which also will include an online component they may complete in their own time.

While students have enrolled in courses for the fall, Taggart said it may be possible for those with a study hall or other open period this fall to sign up for it.

The board also:

• Approved the replacement of outdoor lighting on the school campus with LED light fixtures for $43,656.

While more expensive, such lights are said to be longer lasting.

• Approved the purchase and installation of a video surveillance security system for the north end athletic complex for $94,659.

• Approved the purchase of English curricula, including textbooks, teacher’s manuals and computer software, for grades 6-12 and grades kindergarten through 5 for $64,020 and $41,806, respectively.

• Congratulated the varsity baseball team for winning the OVAC title and the junior high boys track team for winning the Buckeye-Mountaineer Athletic Conference championship.

Kudos also went out to the following high school track athletes for their success at the state track meet: Landon Grimes and Josey Dickinson, both 800 meter run champions; Steve Ohalek, who placed second in the discus event; and Mark Jenkins, Brady Fair, Robert Koehnlein and Grimes, the 4 by 800 meter relay team that placed second.

The board’s next meeting will be held at 5 p.m. June 20.



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