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Letters to the Editors

School choice program is big farce

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 13, 2003

We are writing to express our sheer disappointment and frustration with the school choice plan. We live in Safety Harbor and our son didn't receive any of his five choices for schools in our area. Daniel will be starting kindergarten in August, and he has been enrolled in the prekindergarten program at McMullen-Booth Elementary for the past two years due to a speech and language deficiency.

We never received a call or letter stating that we didn't receive any of our school choices. Last week we visited the School Board building and the Marshall Street school where we initially filled out the choice application in September. We were then informed Daniel didn't receive any of his five choices and had no placement yet.

We were informed by the director of student placement that we had to pick a school that had openings by a certain time or Daniel would be placed in a school of their choice. Most of the schools were at least 10 miles from home. We chose a school near downtown Clearwater, so we will drive 100 miles a week to and from school. We refuse to put a 5-year-old on a bus for that distance every day.

The choice program is a big farce and only will benefit the politicians and administrators who agreed to it. It will be a big headache for students and their families.

There is no such thing as a neighborhood school anymore, and real estate agents cannot list properties with nearby good schools as a selling feature.

We now wonder why we ever left Pinellas Park almost four years ago to be near the best schools if our son can't attend them.
-- Rich and Jane Lupi, Safety Harbor

Chief's lack of respect disappointing

Re: Some see sheriff as answer to cop woes, by Jon Wilson, April 6.

I was amazed to see the quote attributed to St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon regarding the efforts of some members of Council of Neighborhood Associations to address the issues of morale and retention of police officers.

If you call the people at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and ask them about concerns (and the possibility of their input as a state agency) about how a police department functions (or lack thereof), they will tell you that it is essentially the municipality (the taxpayers) who decide how they want their law enforcement agency run.

We have every right as citizens to have opinions and suggestions, and I found it insulting that the chief was able to dismiss these folks and their efforts in such an offhand manner. They are volunteers who give many hours in their dedication to be assets to their community. They deserve the respect of Chief Harmon even if he doesn't like what they have to say.

Also, I was at that meeting, though I am not a CONA member, and heard numerous comments and complaints regarding police service. How did the chief miss those? We are down dozens of officers. How could there not be a degradation in service?

I support the efforts of CONA to have city administration require an outside management review of our police department before agreeing to the items requested by Chief Harmon. A review of this kind is the only way we'll ever know the thoughts of our officers and what they really require to stay with the force as a career.

If our leaders continue to bury their heads in the sand, I think we have no alternative but to inquire elsewhere (i.e., Pinellas County Sheriff's Office) for alternate means to supply this city with law enforcement personnel.
-- Lorraine Margeson, St. Petersburg

Closing track will leave void

Re: Connecting dots to uncork traffic, March 2, and If track closes, racers will use streets, letter, March 16.

I, like your other readers, am quite upset that the county and state want to demolish Sunshine Speedway. My husband and I, as well as other friends, enjoy going to the speedway on Wednesday nights to "test and tune." This is a lot of fun.

This track is the only place in the Tampa Bay area to go to and show what our toys are made of, and it is also a place where we can enjoy one another's company and meet new friends. Sure, there is Bradenton, but those who have to get up for work on Thursday morning aren't able to drive there.

If this track closes, it will be a big disappointment to many of us race fans. Where else would we be able to feel the thrill of racing in fast cars? Since street racing is illegal, there will be no more "test and tune."

To the owners of the speedway, please take into consideration that many have been going there for years and consider it a playground for adults. If you sell, there will be an empty place in many racers' hearts.
-- April K. Cornali, Dunedin

Fruit tree owners should be generous

I've lived in Florida since 1985 and have noticed that people with fruit trees let the fruit fall to the ground and rot. Give the fruit away. You can't eat all the fruit on a tree, at least not in one sitting.
-- Ralph J. Vitale, Clearwater

Thanks for excellent hospital care

I would like to take a moment to appreciate the great asset that we enjoy living in the Tampa Bay area. I was recently stricken with chest pain while at work in Pinellas County. I was transported to Bayfront Medical Center by ambulance.

Spending my time in the emergency room and getting impatient like everyone seems to be these days gave me an opportunity to actually observe my surroundings. I came to realize that I was watching true dedicated professionals working very hard. These people are special, and Bayfront Medical Center is special.

All of the people that I came in contact with were super. The care was excellent. No one likes spending the night in the hospital. Thank God we have them when we need them. We do not say thank you nearly enough. Thank you, Bayfront.
-- Richard Haan, Parrish

Send $1 for state arts funding

My husband and I attended a beautiful Florida Orchestra concert on March 30 and were informed by Richard Zielinski, the guest conductor, that there would be no funds in the state budget for the arts.

How can this be when our country is experiencing so much sadness and tragedy at this time? What better way to soften our sorrows than to encourage our youths to explore the wonderful arts programs made available through state funding?

Rather than marching to Tallahassee to protest, send $1 per person to our senators for funding for the arts so they may see how many people care for these programs and realize the tremendous loss to our communities without them.

Our two $1 bills are in the mail to Sen. Mike Fasano.
-- J. Rose, Bayonet Point

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