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Letters to the Editors

Right or wrong not always clear-cut

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 9, 2003

Re: In teacher of the year, a tangled web, Feb. 2.

Robert Kalach's statement that "education is about what we do collectively" couldn't be more true. What is also true is that the reason Bob was nominated for the honor of outstanding educator four times is that he is a marvelous teacher -- kind, compassionate, constantly striving for improvement. He is the epitome of the dedicated professional.

As a special education teacher, I was in a position to be in and out of his classroom for years at many different times of the day. His children were on task, absorbed, engaged in the learning process. They honored Mr. Kalach every day with their attention, respect and love because he gave the same to them.

Janet O'Harrow, who is troubled because Mr. Kalach was not informed immediately of the error during the Teacher of the Year process, fails to understand that the teachers in each school become a family. Principal Patricia Davey wanted to help when it looked like a member of her school family, a shining example for all of what is best about teaching, might be hurt. Additionally, Bob Kalach represents a group of people who daily give more energy, undergo more stress, make more sacrifices and get rewarded less than those in any other profession in our state.

Some situations don't have a dead right or wrong. Life isn't so easy. It's a shame all of the students Mr. Kalach has taught during his nine years couldn't vote. To them, he was teacher of the year every day.
-- Jeri S. Gammage, retired teacher, South Pasadena

Initial error okay, cover-up isn't

Re: In Teacher of the year, a tangled web.

According to the Times article, Janet O'Harrow, the former news and special events coordinator for Pinellas County Schools, agreed to oversee the Teacher of the Year program. She made a mistake and notified Robert Kalach that he was a semifinalist in the teacher of the year contest. Human error we can tolerate. What follows is completely intolerable and tarnishes the honesty and integrity of some top officials in Pinellas County Schools.

Education officials agreed to pretend that Mr. Kalach was still in the running because honesty could be cruel. Ron Stone is the associate superintendent for human resources and public affairs. He also serves as the district spokesman. He was contacted the day the mistake was discovered. Stone found a way to save the district from losing face. District officials would alter the facts shown on the judges score sheets and say that there was a tie. A press release issued by Ron Stone indicated that in one division of the competition, "Four were chosen in one as a result of a tie." Ms. O'Harrow is disturbed that the district chose this over simply telling the truth. According to the article, few district officials seemed perturbed that the truth was distorted. Distorted? This is a flat out lie created by altering documents. Students, teachers and administrators receive severe penalties for falsifying records and/or documents.

Carol Cook is a member of the School Board and was also serving as a judge for the teacher of the year contest. She stated that this idea (lie) was probably one of the best ideas they could come up with. Mr. Kalach is a teacher that demands honesty and integrity from his students.

This cover-up was orchestrated by top district officials who are major players in the upcoming choice process. When high-level decisions are made behind closed doors that affect such large numbers of people, we must expect and demand that the processes used will be governed by honesty and integrity.
-- Randy Vincent, mathematics instructor/department chair, Center for Wellness and Medical Professions, Boca Ciega High School, St. Petersburg

Principal encouraged unethical behavior

Re: In teacher of year, a tangled web.

This article is germane to my study in ethics as a business student attending the University of Florida, and exemplifies the practice of unethical behavior. It appears that principal Patricia Davey and members of the School Board are unaware that by conducting themselves in this deceptive manner, they are encouraging immoral behavior among the students.

A major reason that ethical violations occur is that this kind of perceived behavior is instilled during the younger years by our families, our peers and our educators. When faced with a moral dilemma later, these same observant individuals will struggle to judge right from wrong. And for what reason was this lie allowed to fester, to become this tangled web? Are these the kind of principles and values we want taught to our children? Is Robert Kalach not a grown man, capable of handling a loss? Apparently School board member Carol Cook applauds the handling of this situation. Does she applaud unethical behavior, too?
-- Katherine Kostreva, Gainesville

$125,000 could have gone for pretty art

Re: Spending on public art debated, Feb. 1.

I've got to give artist Tim Prentice credit, not for his aluminum mobile but for being able to talk the St. Petersburg City Council into paying $125,000 for a few strips of metal that will hang over the ticket counter at Sunken Gardens.

For a third of that price, the council could have contracted an artist to paint an attractive mural of Sunken Gardens, showing the many flowering plants and lush tropical scenery that await visitors as they tour the facility.

An Eckerd College art professor and member of the city's Public Arts Commission thinks that this type of public art will bring people to St. Petersburg. I sincerely doubt that many will be lured to Sunken Gardens to view a bunch of metal sheets hanging from the ceiling.

Why do council members let themselves be talked into spending such a large amount of money on something that will in no way enhance Sunken Gardens?

There should be a plaque hanging next to the so-called artwork, stating the cost and the names of those on council who voted for it.
-- Richard Preston, St. Petersburg

Ribbon art looks like tailpipes

Regarding the ribbon art at Sunken Gardens: When I wish to look at tailpipes, I will go to a muffler shop and look up.
-- Beverly Collins, St. Petersburg

Aluminum mobile makes us look foolish

Re: Spending on public art debated, Feb. 1.

Stained glass, fabric wall hangings, paintings and murals are art, not naked sheets of metal! At a cost of $125,000, this aluminum mobile will put us on the map as fools, thanks to our Public Arts Commission.
-- Sylvia Walbridge, St. Petersburg

This kind of art is found at muffler shop

The inspiration for Tim Prentice's "art" must have come to him while he waited for his car to be repaired in a muffler shop. The city of St. Petersburg can save $124,500 by going to that same shop and buying some muffler pipes off the rack. "Art," indeed.
-- Sal Reale, Seminole

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