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No excuse for superintendent's remark in Pinellas student's death

Teen killed racing to bus story, Dec. 19

No excuse for official's remark

My heart goes out to the family of Nora Huapilla.

I hope I never experience their kind of loss.

Reading the articles about this young woman is heartbreaking and very real.

I have a daughter Nora's age who attends a high school out of our zone. Her assigned bus stop is on the corner of Belcher Road and Lancaster Drive. Her pickup time is 6:20 a.m.

This stop has no street lights. These kids are in complete darkness, and most kids have to cross four lanes of traffic on Belcher to arrive at their stop.

I felt rage upon reading about how the bus driver reacts to tardy children. To close the doors and drive off is inexcusable for any adult that has a responsibility to these kids, especially when that driver can see them coming!

To further the insult to the Huapilla family, school superintendent Julie Janssen's comment that it was the parent's choice to send their child to an out-of-zone school was uncalled for and insensitive.

Reading the past articles about Nora and the other children that have lost their lives has brought me to the conclusion that Janssen is in a job that she is unqualified for and should be fired along with the bus driver.

I wonder what Janssen's reaction would be if it were her child or loved one?

Annette Longstreet, Clearwater

Gardens' light display first rate

Need a boost of seasonal cheer? Take a stroll through the Florida Botanical Gardens' Holiday Lights, at 12520 Ulmerton Road in Largo.

During a recent evening spent volunteering at the gardens, I was impressed with the Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation's hard work putting together this annual tradition, complete with snack and merchandise vendors, entertainment and, of course, the magical light displays. As a former special events coordinator, I know firsthand how much time and energy goes into something like this. The board members and other volunteers who made it happen — especially without major financial support from Pinellas County as in years past — are to be commended!

But don't take my word for it. During my weeknight stint greeting guests at one of the entrances, I saw throngs of happy Pinellas County families and visitors from elsewhere who enjoyed this holiday treat. While the foundation is asking for a mere $2 suggested donation per adult to help cover the expenses, most people had no problem dropping a few bucks into the donation jars in exchange for this fun and inexpensive night.

It's not just pretty lights, either. In addition to supporting one of Pinellas County's cultural treasures, the Florida Botanical Gardens, this event serves as an example that holiday festivities can be "green" too. As previously purchased light displays wear out, they are replaced with more energy-efficient LED technology. Visitors also become aware that the gardens and the adjacent Cooperative Extension Service serve as an educational resource for residents to learn more about landscaping and horticulture, sustainable living and more, through classes, informational brochures and on-staff experts ready to answer their questions.

Finally, the holiday lights give everyone who visits a fabulous Florida Christmas treat: an outdoor holiday event that doesn't involve shoveling snow! It's a great place to take guests, get fresh air, and walk off those overindulgences! (Well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome too.)

The lights are on through Sunday. For details, visit and click on "Holiday Lights in the Gardens."

Carol Cortright, Belleair Bluffs

Thanks to the display volunteers

"Holiday Lights in the Florida Botanical Gardens" is in wild bloom! Approximately 2,000 people have been visiting each night since it started Nov. 30.

It is important that everyone knows that every worker in the gardens, including all the performers as well as all the greeters who are asking for donations, are volunteers. The team of master gardeners, the board of the Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation and their loving friends have worked tirelessly without pay in the hopes of earning money to put back into the gardens.

Our event continues from 6 to 10 p.m. nightly through Sunday, with a special dog parade on Saturday.

Vivian Haicken, co-chair, Holiday Lights in the Florida Botanical Gardens

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No excuse for superintendent's remark in Pinellas student's death 12/29/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 6:31pm]
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