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We need a more traditional schedule for our schools

Letters to the Editor
Published January 14, 2006


Re: Do school years start too soon? Jan. 11.

We're off to a great start with the support and approval of the House committee setting limits on when schools may open for the year. I applaud the efforts of state Rep. Dan Gelber and the support of Reps. Frank Farkas and Ken Gottlieb.

The reasons for a more traditional school calendar are numerous and would greatly benefit the children, working parents, educators and businesses in our county. A later start date does not mean a longer summer, as some would suggest. We can enjoy a true summer, in the summer, as the rest of the country does and still meet the required number of school days necessary. The fact that our kids were back at school on Jan. 2, when so many had the day off, is just another example of how out of synch the local decisionmakers are with regard to the school calendar.


-- Lori Siegel, Clearwater

Early school start is ridiculous

Re: Do school years start too soon?

It is about time somebody put some common sense back into the school start times. Aug. 2 is ridiculous. Schoolchildren and teachers have to be back by the last week of July to go to orientations. July? Yes, schools get out in May, but if you have children in sports or other extracurricular activities they usually continue through June, cutting into the summer even more. These can't change because they follow national dates set by people that have normal summers in the rest of the country and usually start school closer to Labor Day.

With families spread out across the nation, it only makes sense not to cut into time that could be spent with each other. Maybe someone should take a look to see how many hurricane days were taken in August.

Also in the paper there was an article about Pinellas schools having to cut their budgets by $19-million. Rising energy costs were listed as a factor contributing to the fiscal woes. If schools started later in August think of how much money could be saved.

School Board member Jane Gallucci should get her priorities straight. This isn't about the tourist industry. This is about how the county could save money, give a higher quality of life to families and possibly just use plain common sense.


-- Ashley Newhaller, Palm Harbor

School schedule not critical

Re: Do school years start too soon?

I think the start and stop times for summer vacation are pretty unimportant. If you start earlier you get out earlier. "Summer vacation" as we know it is driven by the school systems, so when it starts and stops shouldn't matter to parents.

But for state Rep. Dan Gelber to say, "We're putting kids into classrooms in the hottest and most dangerous part of the year," is typical political misinformation. If he really felt that way he should be lobbying for school to start in November. September is just about has hot as August, and tropical storms historically are much more active in September and October in this area. If he really feels the times are driven by the FCAT, maybe he should be looking at the FCAT schedule instead!


-- James Papia, St. Petersburg

FCAT fatigue all around

Re: Do school years start too soon?

I found the governor's comments about the school time change very interesting. He said, "I'm tired of the FCAT being an excuse for everything from the common cold to the state of schools, and its just not right."

He got part of that correct: It's just not right. If he is tired of it he has himself to blame. Schools in Florida are awarded or not awarded large amounts of money solely based on FCAT results. Students are retained in third grade based on FCAT results. High school students graduate or not based on FCAT results. Through the No Child Left Behind Act, schools are awarded Title 1 money or penalized and have to give it back based on FCAT results. Principals and teachers are "relocated" based on FCAT results. Tutoring services are provided based on FCAT results. Schools are labeled failing based on FCAT results. Vouchers are awarded based on FCAT results.

Guess what? We in the public schools are also tired of it. If he is tired of it, he has only himself to blame.


-- Kathy Zell, St. Petersburg

What price burgeoning districts?

Re: Plan to split up big districts advances, Jan. 11.

A proposed amendment would allow Florida counties to have more than one school district, and Hillsborough County would be large enough to have nine districts. Does this mean Hillsborough taxpayers can look forward to paying for nine superintendents, nine administrative staffs, nine school boards and nine buildings to house them?

If so, it is going to be a very expensive hit on the taxpayers.


-- Robert Van Istendal, Spring Hill

Fear and education

Lately, there has been a lot of press given to unruly students on school buses. The drivers of these buses deserve all the backing we can give them. I drove a school bus for a district in a Midwestern state for a few years. This is something, by the way, that I would never ever do again.

Somebody put up a letter on the board in the drivers' room that I have never forgotten. It goes like this:

The teachers are afraid of the principal!

The principals are afraid of the school board!

The school board is afraid of the parents!

The children are afraid of NO ONE!

We had better pay attention, people. It may already be too late.


-- James Kenna, New Port Richey

Vouchers miss the greater good

Re: Black students lose again in Fla. voucher ruling, Jan. 10.

Vitriol replaces fact in John Tierney's whining complaint about the Florida Supreme Court's recent decision, striking down one of Republican Florida's three voucher laws. Like too many conservatives following today's Republican leadership, Tierney would rather see a few talented minority students vouchered to a rich private school and leave "big public" Miami Edison High School to fend for itself without the supportive families of such students.

In 1964 Dr. James Coleman wrote a report for the government on "Inequality of Opportunity in Public Schooling." In it he made an observation that will help all of us understand why public schools might struggle, and why some wrongly view vouchers or tax credits as real solutions.

He wrote: "The history of education since the Industrial Revolution shows a continual struggle between two forces: the desire by members of society to have educational opportunity for all children, and the desire of each family to provide the best education it can afford for its own children."

This conflict is always present. How we resolve the conflict marks our political philosophy related to education. Voucher advocates are focused on the second part - advancing the individual no matter what happens to the public enterprise of schooling. To them, there is nothing worth saving in the public schools except as places for the undeserving poor. They use vouchers as enticements to forget our greater responsibility.

To the groups Tierney condemns - Democrats, organized teachers and the NAACP - the public good is the first good. Those who in the early 1800s fought for the first public schooling - free and open to all - viewed them as essential to protect the public good and, in doing so, protect the new American democracy.

By focusing on personal economic outcomes and by maintaining a false notion of what makes America vital and great, it is tempting to reach for the quick and easy solution. But the vouchers are not a solution. They are a one-way trip to forgetting who we are and who we should be.


-- Don Chamberlin, Clearwater

Gift rules seem simple enough

Re: Big ado over what's taboo, Jan. 10.

It seems to me that the state Legislature's new "gifts" laws aren't really that complicated after all. If the politicians involved simply pay their own way (as the rest of us do), and accept no gifts or gratuities whatsoever, there will be no problems. You shouldn't need a lawyer to know what's right and what's wrong.


-- Eldon Knoble, Orlando

The worthy tailor

Re: At 82, tailor decides to close shop, Dec. 26.

My name is Terrae Chapman and my grandfather is Angres Chapman, the owner and operator of Chapman Tailors. I can't begin to describe my jubilation upon hearing from my father (Terryence Chapman) that my grandpa was featured in the St. Petersburg Times. He is and has always been, throughout my 20 years, a hard worker. His attention to detail is absolute.

I asked him during Thanksgiving 2004 to make me an all white, white-white, pant suit. Whenever I speak to him he lets me know he has not forgotten my request but that he is looking for the perfect fabric for me. That's just the kind of man my grandfather is, not just for me but for anybody.

He was robbed a few years ago and he gave the robber the cash he requested but he also proceeded to talk to the man, and the man actually let him. That says something I think. In closing, my family and I just want to thank the Times for giving my grandfather the recognition that he deserves.


-- Terrae Lois Chapman, Upper Marlboro, Md.

Lightning loses some luster

When the Tampa Bay Lightning put their captain, Dave Andreychuk, on waivers, I was stunned. This is a career I've followed since Buffalo. Thanks to Gary Shelton, someone noticed the lack of fanfare and adulation. Mr. Shelton, your column was beautiful. I, too, have been thinking of the should-haves.

What's next for the Lightning now that they have metaphorically put their captain in a Hefty Bag and set him on the curb? They have to fill those seats somehow, and they can't do it here without a winner. Perhaps the team should be renamed the Buccaneers on Ice. Or, maybe a new coach would help. I'll stay tuned, but not closely.


-- Ferne M. Horner, Clearwater

[Last modified January 14, 2006, 01:46:02]


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