Scandals infuriate teachers | March 30, story
Alternative certification works
This article states that Stephanie Ragusa, arrested on charges of having sex with a student, "went through alternative certification." This comes immediately after the paragraph quoting teachers' union official Jade Moore's opinion that "when you don't have anyone to choose from and you have to hire anyone who comes in the door, you get in trouble."
This seems to suggest that alternative certification implies a less than qualified or screened teacher. For those who are now shaking their heads and getting ready to call the School Board to make sure we close that loophole that allowed the hiring of unqualified and possibly dangerous people to work in our classrooms, let me explain "alternative certification" because I have one. There is no difference in the process of hiring someone who will get an alternative certification; we get the same background check using fingerprinting (for which we pay a fee), we interview with principals and department heads, and presumably references are checked. We have at least a four-year college degree in most cases (some career and technical teachers may not).
The reason that alternative certification exists is to expand the pool of applicants for teaching positions by allowing people with college degrees and real-world experience in many career areas to become certified teachers in a manner other than obtaining a teaching degree. This means that your child's honors English class may be taught by someone who was a journalist for 30 years, or her calculus teacher may be a civil engineer with 20 years' experience planning and building bridges. Through the alternative certification program, these subject matter experts learn the teaching tools to meet the needs of the classroom environment through rigorous continuing education courses, taught by highly qualified, experienced teachers.
There are many great teachers in our schools with alternative certifications who would no more abuse their positions than teachers with "regular" certifications.
Elizabeth Freeman, Tampa
House abortion vote may add rule
April 3, story
There is no question that when anyone is confronted with the potential of a medical procedure, a thorough informed consent is necessary. But the requirements of an informed consent should not be established by a Legislature with a narrow political or religious agenda. Requiring an ultrasound prior to a pregnancy termination simply to show the pregnant woman that the fetus is alive could be considered emotional blackmail and would be fiscally irresponsible.
A woman facing an emotionally charged situation such as an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy should be helped by her medical provider to make a rational decision. Options can be discussed, choices and their pros and cons can be enumerated without exacerbating an emotional response.
Samuel G. Smith, M.D., Sun City Center
Who pays for ultrasounds?
I think we all see the motive behind the Legislature requiring ultrasounds prior to an abortion. Perhaps upon seeing the picture, the woman might change her mind.
However, does everyone also see the forced spending? Whether it is the woman, her relatives, her employer or Medicaid, someone is going to be forced to spend money on a test she does not want nor need.
As a taxpayer, I am not enthusiastic.
Richard Gasink, Tampa
Stand up against crime | March 31, commentary
Churches take a stand
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker is to be applauded for his stand against the escalating incidences of crime and drugs that affect our community. As the mayor notes, while total reported crime and violent crime is decreasing in St. Petersburg, there are still too many anecdotal examples of how violent crime is holding our citizens hostage.
For several months, a variety of our churches and congregations have heard the call to take a stand against crime and drugs. To that end, 2,500 people from 32 congregations and churches from throughout Pinellas County will gather this evening at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks Beach. Those congregations and churches are all members of FAST — Faith and Action for Strength Together. One of the issues to be addressed at that assembly concerns crimes and drugs. We intend to give our county sheriff "hot spot" cards from the citizens that anonymously detail those areas affected by crime and drug dealing. We also will ask for a timely report from our sheriff on the progress of investigating these "hot spots." FAST is delighted that Sheriff Jim Coats is willing to attend and respond to these two requests.
As Mayor Baker noted, public safety is the responsibility of all citizens, but primarily falls to the police department. To that end, FAST again extends an invitation to Chief Chuck Harmon and Mayor Baker to attend that assembly. There, we will ask Chief Harmon to accept the anonymous "hot spot" cards giving information about criminal activity in St. Petersburg. In addition, we will ask him about a timely response regarding his investigation into those complaints.
We believe that Mayor Baker is serious about ridding our city of crime and drugs. Hopefully, the presence of Mayor Baker and Chief Harmon's responses at the FAST assembly will give further evidence of their sincere intentions concerning this important issue.
The Rev. Robert Ward, Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, and Fr. John Tapp, Holy Family Catholic Church, co-chairs of FAST, St. Petersburg
Rays see future wish in Baltimore
April 4, story
Keep eye on stadium costs
This front-page article paints the Camden Yards stadium in Baltimore as a success. At the end of the article are references to studies with widely varying conclusions on the relative cost or benefit to Baltimore of having that stadium in the Inner Harbor.
Not surprisingly, one study done for the Sports Authority of Maryland declares that the project is cost beneficial. I prefer the conclusion of the other study done by Johns Hopkins University, which concludes Camden Yards actually costs the taxpayers of Baltimore more than $10-million per year.
There are differences and similarities between the Camden Yards project and the Rays project. A key difference is location. Baltimore's Inner Harbor was designed to transform a desolate waterfront into a commercial magnet for out-of-town dollars. There is a warehouse in the outfield at Camden Yards because that is the type of neighborhood that was torn down to make way for the stadium.
From this standpoint, the St. Petersburg waterfront can scarcely be compared to the Baltimore Inner Harbor. In my opinion, such a beautiful waterfront should not be turned over to commercial development, let alone a baseball stadium.
Gene Armentrout, Pinellas Park
A way forward on grouper
The discussion about gulf grouper fishing has zeroed in on one question: Is the grouper population in the gulf in trouble? Scientists and some commercial fishermen say yes; some recreational fishermen and other commercial fishermen say no.
Well-meaning people can argue both sides, but some things are indisputable: There are already too many boats chasing a limited fish population. And if the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council decides to slash the allowed gag grouper catch by 45 percent for next year's season, the commercial grouper industry will be in serious trouble.
The experience in the gulf snapper fishery offers an instructive precedent. With dwindling stocks, snapper fishermen were saddled with shrinking annual catch limits and were forced into monthly fishing "derbies." They raced into often-stormy seas to catch as much snapper as they could before each monthly 10-day miniseason ended. Finally, the annual catch limit was reached and snapper fishing was halted altogether until the next year.
These dangerous derbies resulted in excessive bycatch and dead discards at the same time they created market gluts and slumping prices. The industry was on the rocks.
Last year, the snapper fishery inaugurated the gulf's first individual fishing quota, or IFQ, program, and the results — for fishermen and fish alike — are encouraging. Bycatch is down. The supply to buyers is spread out over the year, and prices are stronger. Snapper fishermen now have the freedom to set their own schedules: They can go fishing when both the weather and the price for their product are favorable. Or they can opt to stay ashore and negotiate a fair price to sell or lease their IFQs to other fishermen.
Under a grouper IFQ program, there would still be a finite pie, set each year by the regulators, but each fisherman would know on opening day how big his piece is. And he could plan accordingly — or react quickly at any time during the year, based on the market. IFQs have proven successful in fisheries around the world.
Glen Brooks, Bradenton