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Pin school failures on principals

Published June 22, 2004

Re: Half of high schools get D, story, June 16.

The principal of Largo High says, "It's a statistical reality that if you add to your base, you automatically are going to lower your average." If this is the kind of math they teach at Largo High, it is no wonder they received an FCAT grade of "D."

I guess we should not worry. Principal Barbara Thornton says they will "analyze it and see what we can do." You are leading a school that is below average and one step above failure and you will see what you can do? With that kind of planning it is no wonder you went from a C to a D.

At least teachers can cry poor and say their job is worth more than their pay (an argument few teachers could win). Principals, on the other hand, are well paid and should be held accountable. Instead of nonstop complaining and excuses, how about some planning, strategy and results? If the current principals are not up to the job, I am sure there are many willing to take their place.

It should be embarrassing that poor performers are demoted but allowed to keep their high salaries. Educators want all the perks of the corporate world with none of the consequences. The only hope is that these problems let people see the true problem: government has no business in education.

-- Timothy Hobbs, St. Petersburg

Beware heavy-handed government

Re: Locals fight Largo annexation plan, story, June 7.

Residents of Largo, do you know how underhanded your City Commission and city manager are?

Largo has a hard time getting properties to annex by vote or to volunteer. So Largo continues to force property owners into the city using highly questionable sewer indentures. The city even forces annexation after property owners voted down annexation, as was the case with the Wrens Way development.

In 2000, Pinellas County threatened to sue Largo over these forced annexations as amounting to "criminal extortion." Pinellas County wouldn't make the accusation without basis.

Largo, with the help of federal funds, operates a sewer system in a sewer district that extensively extends outside the city. But Largo won't admit that it operates a public sewer utility or that it is illegal to require annexation as a condition of connection to its public utility.

If it quacks like a public utility and walks like a public utility ... it is a public utility.

So because of political wrangling in 2000 Largo agreed to no longer require annexation indentures and that an annexation agreement with Largo was now voluntary. If annexation agreements are now voluntary, isn't it further discrimination to continue to use prior required agreements?

The new slippery procedure is if you don't agree to annexation, your connection is somehow extraordinarily delayed - a Hess gas station owner can attest to that. That is not the half of it. In many cases, as properties changed hands, subsequent owners were not aware of these indentures, some of which are 20-plus years old, and all of a sudden Largo shows up and says we are voluntarily forcing you to annex. These property owners did not sign a petition to voluntarily annex as is required, so who is making and signing the required petition?

Beware, Largo residents. If your commission is willing to force its will on these property owners, what will it voluntarily force on you? Oh, yeah, a $21-million library.

The arrogant and delusional part in this is Largo's claim that the unwilling will be better off and happy after annexation. Largo's undermanned and overworked police force will now protect you. You'll leave the dedicated protection of the Pinellas sheriff, the largest, best equipped police force in the county. You'll get to pay for the first computers in Largo police cars after you already paid for computers in sheriffs' cars.

You'll get higher taxes, more and higher permit fees, more regulation, more government bureaucracy and a City Commission that ignores you when you say leave me alone.

One Largo commissioner lamented; Why can't we get people to annex like Seminole can? Act like Seminole and maybe people will want to truly volunteer to join Largo. Come July 1, new laws will allow one to recoup legal fees in these matters, eliminating a financial barrier to challenging the city. If Largo doesn't stop this behavior, I smell a class-action suit demanding deannexation and sanctions against the city of Largo and its officers. But that may happen anyway.

-- Mark Rhoads, Clearwater
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