60% skip roll call | March 22, story
Make the school calendar work for all
As a dedicated Hillsborough County classroom teacher, who is also a Catholic, I was at school on Good Friday, and taught. Why? Because it was important to my students, whom I did not want to disappoint.
Only two students were absent, so regular lessons were taught, important discussions were had, and students had a normal day. With the exception of the 45 minutes I took off for lunch, (during which I brought my son to services at Sacred Heart) the day went as a normal school day. In fact, my school (MacFarlane Park IB Elementary) had only two teachers out, for whom we had substitutes. My partner works at an inner city school (Potter Elementary), and they also had a normal day.
The story quoted parent Kandy Bee, who spent the day shopping with her school-age daughter and niece (who obviously did not attend school). She contended, "This is part of our religion, and we're going to stand our ground." What religion is that, the religion of shopping at the mall?
The point is, there can be a melding of an ecumenical school calendar and respect for all religions. Other districts have managed to make it work. All modesty aside, we have one of the best school districts in the country — the best parents, students, teachers and staff. Surely we can find a way to make this work in the best interests of all, and still hold school on Good Friday as the current calendar approves.
Wanda Vinson, Tampa
Go to religious schools
Some parents in Hillsborough County want the schools to be closed on Christian holidays. Since we are talking about the public schools, which we all share, maybe there should be special Christian schools for these families.
But wait. Don't they already exist? There are any number of private religious schools in this area that will be happy to provide a faith-based environment and teach your children religious dogma as if it were fact. If you want a religious calendar, send your kids to a religious school.
Today they are trying to force the school system to provide religious holidays for one special religion. Tomorrow it will be fairy tales in science class and then praying out loud in our public schools.
There is no question that the school system needs to stick to its guns. There is much more at stake than a day off.
Scott Cochran, Odessa
Crist pulls down pants bill | March 21, story
Parents will seek
a better environment
Private schools must be rejoicing at Gov. Charlie Crist's decision to oppose this bill to stop students from wearing their pants too low. More parents will be opting for private schools, where the emphasis is on education, not the distraction of students allowed to expose their underwear without the opposition of school authority.
Sharon Noel, St. Petersburg
Try casual Fridays
I believe that what students wear to school is a reflection of the respect they have for their school, their teachers and the educational process.
I believe that the male students from private schools who wear simple uniforms of jeans or chinos and a polo shirt with a collar look amazingly well. The girls also wear a simple skirt or slacks and a polo shirt. I think they look great and show a lot of respect for themselves and their schools.
I would like to see this for all public schools. However, until this happens, I suggest that we offer students a "casual Friday" approach where they can wear anything they like as long as it is not indecent. The rest of the week's wardrobe would be long pants, belted, for males and slacks or skirts for girls. Save the shorts and baggies for Fridays.
Gloria Julius, St. Petersburg
Family takes offense at word in books
There is no question that the N-word is painfully offensive. But in the books Darryl Brown wishes removed from the elementary school library, the term is used as a focal point to explore racism in its current and historical context. In literature, the use of the word is often meant to trigger discomfort.
However, we cannot ask our children to question the meaning of literature if we shield them from works like these — or others like Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn — which provide a catalyst for contemplation and discussion. If we did, some of our greatest literary masterpieces would be relegated to the category "too controversial to read." Is that what elementary education has come to?
Bruce Spitz, Tampa
Science standards evolved | March 22, story
In approving new science standards, the state education board has for the first time used the word "evolution." That's a huge step forward. That they waffled under pressure from religious conservatives to add the qualification "scientific theory of evolution" is not a terrible thing. It allows Florida teachers to make the point that science, unlike religion, is open to change as better information becomes available.
John Axe, Lecanto
High schools should let dropouts be dropouts | March 9
I totally agree with this story's theory that at a later stage of maturity, the dropout will see the futility of trying to gain upward mobility without an education, and come "back, later, with enough money to get the learning he finally realizes he needs."
But an even worse situation is found in those who "resist every effort to learn, but at least show up … where everyone then lowers the bar until the bar is merely 'show up,' " and they then manage "to creep across the finish line and graduate."
These same students go on to college where they burden the system with the notion that a college education should be a universal reality. Far from creating a more educated populace, this belief has resulted in an influx of students who have no place in an institution of higher learning. This has resulted in concessions that tend to "dumb down" the teaching effort, and diminish the value of the degree due to its near universality.
Charles E. Jay, St. Petersburg
Traffic laws set for tuneup | March 17, story
Stow the cell phones
Banning cell phone use while driving is a must. Not only for teenagers but for all drivers. Drivers need to give 100 percent of their attention to driving. To dial the phone, answer the phone or to use text messaging is very distracting. I've seen drivers weaving across lanes, driving extremely slow tying up traffic and sitting at lights after they change all because they are on cell phones instead of paying attention to driving. And now the automakers are talking about putting more technology in cars.
Cars are for transportation not to be used to run a business or as a communication center.
Ruth Vinson, Holiday