I appreciate professor Jack Davis' historic perspective of the Everglades. However, regardless of how important a historical perspective is, it does not replace sound science. Although Davis accurately points out that nature can be a great healer, there are times when human damages to an ecosystem are so great that nature cannot heal itself. Strip mines are one such example. The Everglades are another.
Lake Okeechobee is so polluted from agricultural practices that releasing lake water into the remaining Everglades would destroy them. The Everglades Agricultural Area, where Gov. Charlie Crist is moving forward on purchasing more than 70,000 acres of land for restoration, has, in some places, lost almost six feet of soil. It is estimated that it would take hundreds of years for nature to fix Lake Okeechobee, and thousands of years to replace the soil losses in the EAA.
The Everglades ecosystem is also crisscrossed by more than 1,000 miles of canals. These canals create artificial waterways that never existed prior to human intervention. The so called Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie "rivers" are man-made. These canals take dirty Lake Okeechobee water and dump it into the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, causing black water dead zones, fish lesions, and the destruction of oyster populations. In the far southern part of the peninsula canals whisk water away from Florida Bay, causing it to be saltier than the ocean during certain times of the year.
Unfortunately, humans have caused such major damage to the Everglades that humans must now intervene to restore the Everglades. The EAA land purchase will allow for the construction of reservoirs that will store excess water that is now destroying our coastlines. This stored water will be cleansed through man-made marshes, known as storm water treatment areas, which will remove the pollutants from the water, so that it can be used to replenish the Everglades and Florida Bay.
In addition, the Everglades restoration plan will protect water supply. South Florida averages 60 inches of rain annually. Can anyone remember the last time drought conditions didn't occur during our winter months? That is ludicrous. Water authorities in places like Reno, Nev., or Phoenix, Ariz., must find it incomprehensible that we experience drought conditions with such an abundance of water! The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration plan protects our water resources for humans and the environment.
Can the Everglades fix themselves? No. Can humans help restore the system? Yes.
Mark L. Kraus, Ph.D., chief operating officer, the Everglades Foundation Inc., Palmetto Bay
Senate okays tenure bill | March 25, story
Who will now aspire to teach in Florida?
I had the privilege of having some amazing teachers throughout my educational career here in Pinellas County, and that encouraged me to explore the field of education and teaching. I could have chosen any field, but I honestly believed that teaching was a way of giving back to the community and an avenue to help future generations.
I pursued that goal, finished my education and went on to an additional three-year process of professional certification in my subject area of social studies.
Now I, and many other teachers, see that the "tenure bill" has passed the Senate, and it is genuinely disheartening and demoralizing. After all these years of additional course work and having to be professionally certified to teach, where is our job security? Where are our rights? What students in the state of Florida will now aspire to be teachers?
Angela Clifford, Palm Harbor
Press on with reforms
As leaders of the Florida Council of 100, we know that our ability to generate jobs depends directly on the availability of talent. Improving our workforce through investments in education must be the foundation our future will be built upon.
Unfortunately, Florida today is not leading in providing its workers with the professional skills and education they need to compete and succeed in the economy of this new century. It is for this reason that the Florida Council of 100 recently published "Closing the Talent Gap: A Business Perspective."
One focal point of our report is the need to build a high-performance K-12 education system. Why? Simply put, failure at this level almost assuredly stunts students' abilities to develop their own potential as well as to contribute to the economy and to society — at a cost to all Floridians.
Thus, "Closing the Talent Gap" emphasizes reform in several key K-12 areas, including increasing learning standards; designing appropriate assessments; strengthening school accountability; improving the achievement of at-risk students; and improving teacher quality through better training, more professional development, appropriate performance incentives, and removal of non-performers.
Fortunately, Florida already has many great assets in place — especially its nucleus of dedicated teachers who have been the foundation for so much of Florida's educational progress over the past decade. But state policy-makers must press on with reforms until Florida's talent pool is second to none.
Susan N. Story, chair, Florida Council of 100; and Marshall Criser III, chair, PreK-14 Education Committee, Florida Council of 100
Senate Bill 6
This bill devalues the profession of teaching and will have a negative impact upon the well-being of educators who have devoted their lives to the teaching profession. It will destroy the dedication to continuous improvement currently practiced in our teacher education programs and in our schools. It is demoralizing to veteran teachers and discouraging to new teachers.
Placing sole responsibility for student gains upon the teacher is misguided as well as misplaced. The responsibility must be shared by teachers, administrators, parents, and, yes, even legislators.
Florida is in a financial crisis. Balancing the budget while breaking the backbone and spirit of the educational system is not an appropriate solution.
Deborah S. Perry, 30-year-plus veteran teacher, Williston
Senate still punishing teachers March 24, editorial
Too many variables
The state Senate seems intent on punishing all Florida teachers for what they have absolutely no control over. Are there ineffective teachers? Probably, just like in any profession. However, Florida statutes already provide the means to remove those teachers from the classrooms of public schools. This is called the NEAT (notice, explanation, assistance and time) process. Why not amend that if ineffective teachers are to be removed? The process can take two years, and could be amended by the Florida Legislature much more easily than the Senate bill they are trying to pass.
Too many variables determine student success, and many of them are not in the school. I have 20 years of experience in the classroom and an M.A.Ed. What progress I see in my middle school students cannot be measured on a test. For the learning disabled, it is baby steps forward, but it is progress. Our school is in a poverty stricken area where most of the students are on free and reduced-price lunch. Some children have no one at home to read with them or help them with homework.
Sen. John Thrasher needs to walk a day in our shoes before he starts punishing us for what we cannot control and for progress that will not be shown on a standardized test.
Carol Hess, Hudson
The parent factor
The Florida Senate just passed a bill tying teacher pay to student test scores. So when my kids fail a test because they were texting instead of paying attention in class, or did not study, or were up all night, I can just blame their teachers, right? And the teacher's pay will be lowered accordingly?
Conversely, when I make them turn off the TV, do their homework, study, go to bed early, make sure they go to school ready to learn, etc., — in other words, do my job as a parent — then when they ace the tests, their teachers get the credit, right?
So, why don't I just give my children to their teachers to raise?
It sure sounds as though the Florida Senate has no respect for the important role of parents, or students, when it comes to public education. Or is scapegoating teachers just easier than actually trying to improve schools in any real, meaningful way?
Sarah Robinson, Safety Harbor
Big idea is bad idea | March 22, commentary
Recycling old ideas
I was pleased to see Diane Ravitch's historical review of education innovations. After 36 years in education, I have concluded that present day innovations are nothing but a rewording of ones going back to the 1930s and 1940s.
It would help if politicians and others who promote educational solutions would take time to go to the archives of universities known for education research such as Columbia, Ohio State, Michigan and Stanford. This would give them insight so they do not reinvent the wheel. But first they should read Ravitch's opinion piece.
Warren F. Thomas, Ed.D, retired, Palm Harbor
"Jobs" bill eases limits on growth March 25, editorial
Ready to follow up on last years' signing by Gov. Charlie Crist of SB360, which destroyed "growth management," the development juggernaut stands ready to unleash itself on unpaved Florida. However, just to make sure there are no bumps in that road come Sens. Don Gaetz and Mike Bennett.
If SB 1752 is passed (sadly, recent history says it will be) then the door will be wide open for developers to have their way with Florida's landscape in the name of "streamlining" and "job creation." I'm all for jobs. I'm not in favor of casting aside any and all checks and balances that safeguard wetlands, wildlife corridors, and rural places for temporary, low-wage jobs. As part of this bill, all permits submitted would have to be approved within 30 days, or they get the green light, anyway. Most amazingly, projects 40 acres or less would require no permitting whatsoever. Unreal!
Passing this would be a grave mistake and will cost our state dearly. But, as usual, our "representatives" are catering to deep-pocketed interests that always tip big. Gov. Crist must veto this horrific bill.
Ron Thuemler, Florida Master Naturalist, Tampa
I guess I shouldn't be at all surprised to see that a couple of contractors in the Legislature are trying to use the need for jobs as a new way to feather their nests. Besides the bad idea of trying to return to the same development-based economy that got us to where we are now, it can't be sustained forever anyway. This includes the ludicrous idea of allowing new development with no review beyond being approved by a developer-hired engineer.
When I worked reviewing plans for a local county we saw a lot of plans certified by professional engineers. Yes, plans often were sent back to be redone, but not for flippant reasons. Usually they were returned because the professional engineer repeatedly failed to include things always required by county rules. We even saw PE-certified plans with stormwater running uphill several feet to drainage ponds, landscaping the PE promised to plant in new concrete and certified plans stating there were no trees on site, only to find the site was totally forested.
To protect the people of Florida, no development should ever be allowed without review by someone not on the developers payroll.
Ken McLaughlin, Zephyrhills
Forget the new tax
When will the Hillsborough County commissioners come to their senses regarding a tax referendum for a rail system on the November ballot?
The taxpayers are in no mood to vote for a penny increase in the sales tax, not when the economy is still in a funk and the unemployment rate for the Tampa area is among the highest in the country.
There are far too many problems facing individuals and their families and the county, for that matter, to be thinking about imposing an added tax burden, the benefits of which will not see fruition for many years hence.
Earl A. Myers, Jr., Tampa
Toyota's dangerous defect
Sending a message
Government hearings by Sen. John D. Rockefeller as well as Reps. Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak have exposed years of neglect by Toyota management, resulting in loss of lives and serious injuries to customers, due to a defect that causes sudden acceleration.
My 2008 Toyota Camry was recently recalled and "repaired" at a local Pinellas County Toyota dealership. Yet, numerous reports indicate that such repairs haven't solved the problem. This real fear and disappointment has caused me to add my name to a class action lawsuit by Attorneys Toyota Action Consortium in the hope that Toyota finally gets it.
Thomas F. Morrissey, Jr., Seminole