Don't just fund education, audit it
Your articles in the March 4 paper regarding higher education and the grossly mismanaged Pinellas County school system tell the public how incompetent our appointed and elected officials really are!
Then on Monday you criticize the Legislature for insufficient funding of public schools which, using Pinellas as an example, are probably just as inefficient! If you had any business sense you would call for an audit of the entire school system in Florida, including state-funded universities. I probably shouldn't hold my breath!
While Florida higher education is way behind in the price they charge for tuition, they are way behind in the management of the money they spend.
Does anybody think our universities are operated efficiently? Many professors spend little time professing, have life tenure and great pension and health benefits, while the administration spends exorbitant amounts for football and basketball.
Unfortunately, they get heavy pressure from alumni who like to see their university receive national publicity, with little regard for the quality of education. What is the university Board of Governors doing about it? What are the university presidents doing about it?
Last August, the University of South Florida took the entire football team and staff (probably more than 100 people) to Daytona Beach for 10 days so the team could "bond." There is no doubt that football and basketball bring money to the university, but much is spent on huge salaries for staff and new athletic venues under the guise that all students benefit.
It should be obvious that most major university athletic organizations will do anything to win and further their own careers, with little interest in the education of the student body .
John Stewart, Pinellas school superintendent, should be honored for bringing competency and an excellent management philosophy to the school system, which has been grossly mismanaged for years. Where have the elected officials been all these years? The answer is: nowhere!
There is no doubt that a good teacher is precious and should be paid accordingly, however, their union is more interested in higher pay and more benefits for all, regardless of performance, with little interest in educational excellence and efficiency.
I voted for the tax increase for teacher pay last time, but before I vote again, I want the teachers (the union) to tell me how they're going to help make the system more efficient — i.e., pension, sick time accrual and vacation reform, and measurements to identify and pay the good teachers while eliminating the under-performers.
That's the real world!
The public has been providing the money, but much has been wasted and the educators always want more.
Jim Harpham, Palm Harbor
2 studies might not solve EMS debate | story, March 7
Consolidation is obvious solution
Having spent two or three years studying, analyzing and consulting on the EMS issue, spending countless staff hours and thousand of taxpayer dollars with essentially no results, state Sen. Jack Latvala and the County Commission now suggest two more committees to study the workability and cost of two proposals.
Pinellas Suncoast fire Chief Robert Polk has already said that if the reports of these committees do not support fire transport, they will be "inaccurate and inappropriate." County Commissioner Karen Seel expects more controversy and is looking for a "clear route" from these reports. It won't happen.
Please quit wasting time and taxpayers' money. Go directly to a broad-based task force to look at the system. I am confident it will conclude that a major obstacle to improving the current system is the 18 separate fire districts in Pinellas County. It makes the system far less manageable, too cumbersome, cost inefficient.
Eventually, Pinellas County will consolidate the 18 fire districts into one. It's only a question of how much time and taxpayer money will be wasted until it happens.
Dave Loeffert, Dunedin
Have fun and help at Relay for Life
Do you like enjoying yourself while raising money to fight a terrible disease? All you have to do is to look for the Relay for Life event nearest you. There are plenty going on in April and May.
The one I like the most is the one that will be held on April 27-28 at my school, Safety Harbor Middle.
Talk to your friends and make a team or just come for a few hours. I promise you will have a blast.
Every Relay for Life event starts at around 6 p.m. and lasts 18 hours. The opening ceremony begins the event. In the opening ceremony, people who have been diagnosed with cancer or one of their family members have a chance to speak about their experiences.
Then the event kicks off with a lap walked by the survivors. After the lap, each team is encouraged to have one person on the track all the time to represent that cancer never sleeps. At 9 p.m. the track gets silent and people walk in the light of hundreds of luminaria, remembering who lost their fight against cancer or celebrating who has won it.
To keep everybody awake several activities are held. You might get to wear a frozen T-shirt at midnight, or find hidden objectives at 2 a.m. Most of the teams sell yummy food too.
I relay because I want to help find a cure, especially for all the kids that, like me, have been told once, "You have cancer."
In fact, Relay for Life is the major fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. With the money that is collected, the American Cancer Society provides services for those diagnosed with cancer, such as transportation to the hospital to receive needed treatments.
Another thing the American Cancer Society does is organize a safe and fun summer camp where kids with cancer can meet other kids like them.
They also will use a portion of your money to find more effective cures.
I hope to see you all at the Relay near you.
Chiara Simeoni, Safety Harbor