'We're totally at home' | Feb. 23
Bridging gap between India, U.S.
The Times' recent reports on Indian-Americans and their temples are to be highly commended. They were insightful, open-minded and comprehensive in their coverage of a minority earlier seen as strange and exotic and that suffered discrimination.
Thanks to the Kennedy and Johnson-era immigration reforms that favored highly qualified professionals, that perception has undergone a remarkable change. Indian-origin health care professionals, software specialists, hoteliers and others are making significant contributions to this community while cherishing their ancient heritage and values. They hail not only from the Indian subcontinent but also from Africa, the Caribbean, Fiji and many other former European colonies. Although small in number, we are a highly "visible" minority because of our looks, accents, dress and faith patterns.
No doubt, the coming Bollywood awards event, with its promise of huge crowds, business and money, is a major factor in this new attention. But it would be wrong to see Bollywood culture as reflective of the age-old Indian culture, which has been described as the "Empire of Spirit" for its values, and Bollywood is far removed from mainstream India. However, to the extent that these awards focus on the changing cultural landscape of our area and expand our world vision, it is all to the good.
Mukunda Rao, Tampa
Another blow to public schools March 2, John Romano column
Suffocated by mandates
I would like to commend John Romano for this column. I am a retired Pinellas County teacher. I enjoyed teaching when it was considered an honorable profession, and received many intrinsic rewards from my 33 years working with high school students.
Since the FCAT became the ultimate definer of our educational system, our teachers have been maligned by the media nationwide. Florida is blessed with wonderful teachers. The problem is the Legislature has suffocated them with mandates that aren't working. Teacher morale is at an all-time low.
The fact that tax dollars are now being filtered into the private sector, reducing the monies available for our public schools to improve, hasn't helped. The complacency of the public on this issue is amazing.
The students who enter our schools today bring many more problems to the classroom than they did 20 years ago. There is more to education than test scores. Testing is just a small portion of what should be measured.
Barbara Corbett, St. Petersburg
These scores don't add up | March 2
Evaluation system failing
A teacher of the year with a VAM score below zero? What is the world coming to? This proves that our politicians and the Department of Education have an evaluation system that is devious to no end.
I have a friend who teaches special education who was considered a "needs improvement" teacher in the last school year report. This teacher's VAM score was in the mid 20s. The teacher has shared with me that the peer had no idea what was going on in the classroom. The principal was using the evaluation system to get rid of teachers from the previous principal's reign whom she didn't want.
Because of this unfair evaluation, this teacher is being micromanaged by the evaluation system, school administrators and peers. I believe this whole evaluation system is a way to manipulate teachers and cause turmoil in our schools.
Agnes Murphy, Valrico
Condos skirt big premium hikes March 3
Many can't afford it
It was interesting to read about how condo associations are able to have their flood classification changed. However, the statement "Unlike most owners of homes, they can afford to challenge FEMA flood maps" is misleading. This statement lumps all associations in the same category.
I would not dispute that there are some financially stable associations that can afford the major costs involved in getting their classification changed. But this does not take into consideration the myriad of associations struggling to keep going due to losses associated with foreclosures, etc.
These associations are in the same category as the single-family homeowner, struggling to keep up with spiraling expenses they have no control over and loss of equity in their homes and/or condo units.
Mary Jane Callihan, St. Petersburg
The Tin Man | March 2, editorial
Your editorial on Gov. Rick "Tin Man" Scott was both enlightening and frightening. To see all the devastation he has wrought on this state summarized in one place reveals with great clarity the steps he has taken to turn our community of individuals into a corporation ruled by the wealthy minority. His mind is still firmly rooted in his former world of stepping over (and on?) the little people in order to achieve a goal.
Unfortunately there are too many members of the voting public who will not open their eyes to what is happening.
Arthur Eggers, Tampa
Calls for forceful U.S. | March 3
The armchair generals are rushing in to give advice to the president on managing the international crisis in Ukraine. Sen. John McCain, in a CNN interview, called the president "naive" about Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio and Rep. Mike Rogers called the president "weak," "indecisive," and "feckless."
With the world looking to us for direction, these remarks are not helpful and make us look like a divided nation. In their foolish rush to judgment, these men, hoping to gain political capital, are hurting the country. President Barack Obama is an intelligent and cool-headed leader who is not about to plunge this nation into another ill-conceived war.
Lorraine Madison, St. Petersburg
Obama's in over his head
Vladimir Putin does not have to worry about what President Barack Obama will do because he knows that Obama will handle this as he did Syria. That means, draw a line in the sand and when it's crossed, immediately do nothing. Obama, the community organizer, is in way over his head when it comes to global affairs.
Louis Ciardulli, Safety Harbor