Everyone recognizes that Moammar Gadhafi is a vicious tyrant, as your editorial (Obama draws fine line on Libya policy, March 29) noted, and hopes the rebels will topple his brutal regime.
But President Barack Obama's defense of America's military intervention — however limited it may be and however linked to NATO — still left many questions unanswered and a feeling of unease about U.S. policy amid similar crises in the future.
What happens, for example, to notions of national sovereignty? If a dictator is brutal enough, does sovereignty matter at all? Or do we just jump in? And do we now intervene in civil wars, militarily supporting one side or the other? What if American values are outraged in the future, but the international community doesn't agree? Do we abandon our values or support them with firepower anyway?
The president said this was a special situation. It always is. In the late 1970s, was Pol Pot's murder of thousands of Cambodians a special situation? How about Idi Amin in Uganda years ago? What about the Syrian government's killing of its rebels today?
The president may be right. Certainly we hope Gadhafi goes and democracy flourishes. But after 10 years of war, this is one American who hopes Washington will focus less on when to intervene militarily in other nations and more on offering our good offices but keeping our powder dry.
Larry Paul, Nobleton
Libya needs our help
During the American Revolution, we decided we wanted to declare independence from the nonrepresentative government of our ruler, King George. We armed our own civilians as militiamen but relied on French naval support to level the military playing field against the British.
Today, the Libyan people have declared their independence from their oppressive ruler, Moammar Gadhafi. Their civilians have been fighting to oppose his oppressive regime. They have asked for air support to level the playing field in their civil war.
Given our history, it would be un-American to ignore the Libyan people's cry for help.
Heidi Halsworth, Tampa
Schools chief defends the indefensible March 30, editorial
Investigation of teacher bound by due process
I have never worked with or supervised Maria Raysses-Whipple. When my staff received a complaint against her, I authorized the pending investigation. If the investigation reveals there is probable cause to believe the employee violated board policy or applicable law, I will issue a charging letter that will set in motion an administrative proceeding in which the employee will have an opportunity for a hearing conducted before an impartial administrative law judge.
The school district is bound by law to adhere to the principles of due process in disciplining its employees. Due process precludes me from speaking about the details of employee investigations in response to media inquiries. When asked by the Times reporter about Raysses-Whipple's employment history, I should have withheld comment in light of the pending investigation. Instead, I attempted to explain the process leading up to the present investigation. As a result, a former principal whom I greatly respect was offended, and such was never my intent.
It was said that I am the only one who cannot grasp why Raysses-Whipple should have been fired long ago and never allowed to return to a classroom. We know that she was not terminated under prior administrations. We cannot be certain of the reasons, and it would be inappropriate for me to speculate since any recommendation resulting from the pending investigation could be influenced by the employee's employment and disciplinary history. In light of the pending investigation, and not knowing whether it will disclose probable cause to recommend she be disciplined, I cannot and will not join the chorus of those calling for Raysses-Whipple's termination.
Over the past 21/2 years, I have undertaken a redesign of the district's professional development program to provide support to teachers and other staff members. With board approval, I have also initiated a pilot project to implement the new teacher evaluation system. This past year, at my request, the office of general counsel and the office of professional standards published a written discipline guide for district administrators and supervisors in an effort to bring added consistency, fairness and certainty to the disciplinary process.
Hard-working and effective teachers should be recognized and rewarded. Those who fail to live up to reasonable performance expectations must not be passed on from one assignment to another. I am committed to our children and to continuous improvement in all aspects of school, classroom and district operations, whose sole purpose is to serve the best interests of our children. I measure my value as superintendent by the extent to which I improve the educational experience of our students, and I will take every opportunity to improve my performance as necessary to ensure their best interests are met.
Julie M. Janssen, Ed.D., Pinellas school superintendent
Union bosses to blame
The statement "state law is no substitute for sound judgment by public officials" misses the point.
As former teacher Sarah Palin points out, it's not the teachers who cause most of the difficulties. It's the bosses of the teachers unions who are the problem. In my opinion, these bosses are primarily interested in power and money; education is a distant third in their eyes.
Let us all support Gov. Rick Scott as he attempts to exercise sound judgment in upgrading our public schools by, among other steps, reducing the power of the union bosses.
Michael M. James, Dunedin
She's the teacher no one wants | March 28
Disrespect in classroom
I couldn't help the feeling of deja vu that settled over me while reading this article. In the '90s, I was a sub for Pinellas County schools, covering a territory from Seminole to Tarpon Springs.
It was always easy to gauge the regular teachers' control by their students. If they were good for me, I knew they were even better for their regular teacher. If they were rotten (one middle school girl bragged that they had made the last sub cry), I knew they weren't much better for their regular teacher.
If you haven't been in a classroom in 30 years, it's hard to comprehend the low level of maturity and respect that is always mentioned in articles as "disruptive or undisciplined behavior." It's easier to understand when you realize the effects of drugs, alcohol, broken homes and a coarsening culture coupled with bad or no parenting.
Who knows how many millions of kids can't name the three branches of government because their public school days were spent being high and cutting up, even controlling the class? Now these same kids are raising their own bunch of self-indulgent, disrespectful brats, and neither parent nor child feels they should be accountable for their actions.
Edward Gleeson, New Port Richey
Voter apathy has its price
In my travels, I have heard quite a few people complaining about our current group of legislators, who are supposed to represent the majority of voters. I have asked these individuals if they voted and most have said no, they didn't like either candidate so they didn't vote.
Well, guess what happens? People who are passionate about their beliefs go out and vote because they want the government to reflect their beliefs.
Now we are having to deal with these beliefs — restricting women's rights, allowing greed and power to be placed above people's well-being, and trashing our environment in the process.
Rather than letting a small percentage of voters decide the direction of our state, in the next election maybe you will at least vote for the lesser of two evils rather than not vote at all.
Not all of the legislators are representing a small section of voters. There are some who try to use common sense, but there aren't enough of them in the Legislature.
Jim Deveney, Pinellas Park
Remember them at the polls
The citizens of Florida thought they elected legislators who would use sound evaluation and judgment when voting on issues regarding the greater good. How could so many of us have been so misled? Passage of House Bill 1207, re-establishing "leadership funds," is such a blatant, unethical grab for payoffs that it's incredible any elected official was able to keep a straight face while voting for it.
We should probably thank those legislators for finally revealing their unvarnished personal agendas and thoroughly demonstrating that the majority of them vote in their own best interests, not the citizens'.
Kudos to the brave few who called it what it was and voted against it. I'm keeping my list of those who voted in favor of House Bill 1207, and come next election will gladly share it with anyone who hasn't quite yet given up on the idea of democracy.
Beverly Brill, St. Petersburg
Early release days
By this time of year, if you have a child in the Pinellas County school system, you should be aware that Wednesday is early-release day. The school day for students (not teachers) ends at 1:35 p.m.
This past Wednesday (before the break), I was in the front office of our school and there had to have been 25-30 children there. I thought that a bus was late picking them up. I was informed that the children were carpool kids, waiting for their parents. Some asked to call their parent to remind them that school was over for the day. This was not a one-time event.
I think you get the picture. Who really needs to be held accountable? We, the teachers, do our job. We, the teachers, care. Some kids come with attitudes and don't care. Need I say more?
Arlyne Popick, St. Petersburg
As a parent and former teacher, I have a problem with how so many outcomes are tied to the results of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, a test that is not really a true validation of a child's learning. To tie teachers' salaries and schools' ratings to such a flawed procedure is foolhardy.
To know how much a child has learned over the school year, a test should be given at the beginning of the school year and the same test given again at the end. That is a more accurate measurement of a child's progress.
Nancy Charron, Largo
Talib wanted in Texas | March 30
It didn't belong
This headline on Aqib Talib was more than annoying. There are certainly more important issues in our world. Why is the criminal activity of yet another misbehaving, overprivileged sports thug shoved in our faces?
For an otherwise fine paper, oncer, once in a while the Times' sense of proportion leaves me scratching my head. Put that nonsense on the sports page if you must print it at all.
Larry Harrison, St. Petersburg
Drug testing clash looms | March 27
Who is going to pay for government employees and welfare recipients to be drug tested? We, the taxpayers.
Who owns an interest in a drug-testing facility by virtue of his wife? Rick Scott.
Who conveyed a $62 million ownership interest in an urgent-care chain to his wife? Scott.
Who is using the hard-earned money of Florida taxpayers as a slush fund to increase his net worth? Scott.
Lynn Cannella, Tampa
I do not understand why everyone is making such a big deal over drug testing. In the last 15 years I have had three jobs, and each one of them required I take a drug test before being employed. None of them put me in charge of someone's safety, and only one of them was dealing with critical financial information of clients of the business.
Why are government employees being put up as "above" us regular employees when in fact they should be held to higher standards because it is our tax dollars paying their salary?
If they are not doing anything wrong, it is not an invasion of their privacy because the drug test will show they are "clean" and they get on with the job at hand. If they are doing drugs, they shouldn't be getting my tax dollars.
C.R. Lan, Safety Harbor
Too much spent on sports
With schools facing budget cuts, I suggest that sports be canceled and that money used to pay teachers a decent salary. There is so much emphasis on sports that education is taking a back seat. Let's get our priorities straight.
If the students need physical training, include that in their daily classes. When I came to the United States in 1957, I was amazed at the amount of sports in schools. In Europe, you join a local club if you want to play.
Larry Zwart, Dunedin