If I Die Young | Dec. 18
Commendable account of addiction, hope
I commend the Times for this very real but horrifying story of prescription drug abuse and the path to recovery. This ongoing and escalating issue is a plague in our society, and our beautiful state of Florida has the "black cloud" of addiction surrounding us. My children, now young adults, have friends and classmates who have died from this; I have friends whose children have died; and I have family members who have suffered and died from this disease.
Fortunately there is hope, as Stacy Nicholson and her mother and children have conveyed in this unfortunate daily experience in the Tampa Bay area. Family, friends and co-workers of addicts need to know that they can get support at Nar-Anon and Nar-Ateen meetings where members share experience, strength and hope so that addicts are not enabled and the family can deal with this disease.
Kathy Condon, Palm Harbor
More controls needed
Kudos to Lane DeGregory for her in-depth, moving report on one young woman's abuse/recovery experience. The story brought out a lot of emotions, from sadness to empathy to anger. The one statistic that most blew my mind was that "in the first half of last year, 98 percent of the oxycodone prescribed in the country was prescribed in Florida." If I were in government, I would make this a priority.
I don't understand why these drugs are so easy to get. Can't chemists come up with something that blocks pain without producing "euphoria" or creating dependence? I believe people have to take responsibility for themselves, but this drug is a menace. It needs to be far more monitored and controlled, and more importantly, effective alternatives need to be produced and marketed.
Jennie Ibarguen, St. Petersburg
Put the dealers in jail
This story in the Sunday Floridian section was amazing. Thank you for hopefully helping our young people.
I want the drug dealers in jail. Please, young people, start stepping up and turning these losers in; you may be saving a friend's life.
When someone dies from drugs, why aren't the people who gave it to them ever caught? They need to be locked up.
Marreen Majer, Palm Harbor
Gates system facing doubts | Dec. 18
Lack of transparency
The math department at Jefferson High School includes many dedicated, talented, hard-working, effective math teachers. I know that the student performance data portion of their evaluation scores kept all of them from receiving bonuses.
In expressing this frustration, I said in this article, "or maybe the math teachers at Jefferson High School aren't very good." My quote was uttered in frustration about the lack of transparency about who did get the bonuses. I was questioning how my students' performance is measured and judged against the performance of students in other grade levels, at other schools and in other departments.
I question that the district can fairly compare my effectiveness. I urge the district to release data showing who received bonuses by school and by department to show that the money is being fairly distributed to teachers at all levels, teaching across all disciplines and in schools that are traditionally high-performing as well as schools that are striving to overcome the challenges of an economically disadvantaged, diverse, high-ESOL population.
Karen Colton, Tampa
Evaluation system suspect
As this article shows, apprehension is widespread. For one, the very idea of peer evaluation creates antagonism and distrust.
Second, Florida's schools are led by many whose expertise is suspect. The "good ol' boys" were better at coaching than evaluating teachers. The potential for abuse in a highly political environment is enormous.
Third, raising test scores — as we saw in the huge Atlanta schools scandal, as well as cheating all over Florida — often becomes a game in which abuses will become rampant. Low achievers can usually be moved further than high achievers, for obvious reasons. Teachers of very high ability will never be able to match teachers of less talented students.
Fourth, teachers once had supreme authority and nearly automatic respect, but this highly political trap will turn all of them into mundane, anxious and very vulnerable prey.
Thus, the project called Empowering Effective Teachers will actually produce the opposite effect by disempowering them. Right now, only their wits and PC games help them survive.
Cornelius J. Troost, Tampa
Bank supports community
In this season of giving, we extend our gratitude to Bank of America for its commitment to our communities. Bank of America gave nearly $1 million to Tampa Bay nonprofits at its annual Neighborhood Excellence Awards ceremonies in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. This investment in nonprofit agencies, local heroes, student leaders and community volunteers strengthens community services and addresses compelling needs.
Bank of America also provides financial support and sponsorship for many smaller events throughout the year, and perhaps just as important, it provides leadership training for each of the nonprofits it supports, allowing them to meet other leaders from across the nation. At these professional development training sessions, leaders of nonprofits learn from others facing similar challenges by exchanging ideas and learning about new research and best practices. Bank of America provides an invaluable service not only through its financial support but by helping the nonprofits it supports become better stewards of their funding.
It is these partnerships — the private business sector and the social nonprofit sector — that will successfully address the difficult community issues of our times. The 2010 and 2011 Bank of America Neighborhood Builder Award recipients: Wheels of Success Inc., Community Tampa Bay, YMCA, St. Petersburg Free Clinic, Meals on Wheels of Tampa, Metropolitan Ministries, Daystar Life Center and Religious Community Services.
Susan Jacobs, CEO, Wheels of Success, Tampa
Controlled grief, joy
You have to pity the people of North Korea. How will they know when it is okay to stop public displays of uncontrolled grief after the death of their "Dear Leader" and start showing uncontrolled public happiness over the "Great Successor"?
Fred Jacobsen, Apollo Beach