Change in center's focus is ill-advised | April 22, letter
Science Center's focus won't change
This letter, written by a valued former employee of the Science Center of Pinellas County, drew some incorrect conclusions. The center's mission will not change as was asserted. It continues to support educational programs for the full spectrum of K-12 students.
The center still offers its acclaimed Classroom Extension Programs and Mobile Outreach Programs. However, it must always reshape its programs to better meet the changing needs of the community at large. Furthermore, the center recognizes that it must fortify its linkages with the K-20 educational system, the corporate community, the nonprofit sector, and families and individuals who recognize the importance of science and math to modern society.
Your Science Center will continue to fulfill its commitments to regional K-12 students and is a community partner with the Pinellas County School District. Bill Lawrence, the district's director for advanced studies and Academic Excellence, serves on the center's board of directors. He is helping to align and redesign the center's programs to serve better all Pinellas students and meet the district's special challenges.
Regarding the performance of students in the field of science from the "nation's report card," the data show different outcomes than were implied by the former employee. According to the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress, U.S. early elementary students demonstrate higher achievement in science than their peers did a decade ago. In contrast, by the eighth grade student progress stalls, and by the senior year in high school it actually erodes, particularly in earth science. With this worrisome fact in mind, the center does indeed aim to pay more attention to students beyond the fourth-grade level.
By working diligently with its corporate partners at Raytheon, Progress Energy Florida and Bay News 9, and its academic partners at the University of South Florida St. Peterburg and the USF College of Marine Science, the center now includes a new technology orientation in its curriculum. Summer programs now include new classes in robotics, rocketry, botany, cartography, archeology, forensic science and environmental science. Enrollment is robust, and the center looks forward to having a full roster of students in attendance this summer.
Contrary to the mistaken belief of many, the center is not a governmental agency. As do all nonprofit institutions with great missions, it must face the stark realities of the present economy. Nonetheless, it will survive and further develop its programs as economic conditions improve.
Willy Schweikert, chairman, board of directors; Chris D'Elia, past chairman, board of directors, Science Center of Pinellas County
Mayor should honor contracts
"It's a great day in St. Pete," unless you happen to be the average city employee who will feel the biggest impact of the mayor's recent decision. This decision is to declare financial urgency pursuant to Florida statute and force the unions to decline their previously contracted pay raises, as well as forgo the contracted pay raises based on seniority.
What exactly does that mean to a St. Petersburg police officer? Officers are currently under a three-year labor contract that was ratified by the city after 1 1/2 years of intense negotiations. A result of the mayor declaring financial urgency, officers' pay will be frozen at its current rate, and the gradual increases for longevity with the department will come to a halt as well. While officers patrol city streets, eager to protect the citizens, they will not receive any money that they were promised after extensive negotiations. Yet, these officers have the same bills that you and I have.
During this "financial urgency," it may appear that top city government officials are taking a huge hit too. Some officials are taking up to a 2.5 percent pay "decrease." That is good! Or is it? These officials are losing 2.5 percent of their salary, but only after they have received anywhere from about 12 percent to 55 percent pay increase over the past four years, per the list of "City of St. Petersburg Senior Management Positions."
However, for St. Petersburg officers with less than 12 years in the department, this financial urgency will cause these officers to lose 2.5 percent in pay, plus an additional 3.5 percent for seniority pay. That's 6 percent loss of pay to officers, but only 2.5 percent to upper management!
Police officers have chosen to do a job that others will not do. They leave their families behind each and every day to come to work to protect and serve the citizens of this "great" city. Now is your chance to help protect and serve them. Call the mayor and encourage him to value our officers and to honor his word and the existing contracts.
Michael I. Krohn, executive director, Police Benevolent Association, Clearwater
Everyone should share the road
Share the road. Most bicycle riders are conscientious people and ride with care and safety. There are, however, those who seem to care less about their own safety as well as that of others. At the intersection of 30th Avenue and 60th Street N is a four-way stop, and I have seen bicyclists blow right through as though it doesn't exist.
I have also observed motorists backed two and three deep follow the car at the sign through without stopping again, totally ignoring others waiting to go through.
On more than one occasion we have also encountered groups of bicyclists on Coffee Pot Boulevard and North Shore Drive that have taken up the entire travel lane plus the bike lane, riding three and four abreast and very reluctant to allow passage.
As I traveled 22nd Avenue N one evening I heard a motorcycle coming from behind me at a high speed. When I glanced in my rearview mirror I was even more surprised to see the machine up on its rear wheel — just the rear wheel! Share the road? This works both ways!
Norman E. Clark, St. Petersburg
Old folks not only cause of accidents
Recent letters pointed out reports of seniors walking into traffic, and it cannot be denied that this happens. But police reports that almost always blame such accidents on the elderly are not necessarily correct. This is because police reports are based on witness statements, and witnesses are notoriously inaccurate.
For example, a witness might say he saw a senior walking into a moving car but may not realize the senior was already in the crosswalk before the car turned the corner or not mention that the vehicle ran the red light or was going 15 mph over the speed limit. Unfortunately, a passenger in the vehicle, who may now be dead or comatose, cannot set the record straight.
John Royse, St. Petersburg
Save fuel by using smaller buses
As I tool around in my car, I notice that the huge city buses are mostly 90 percent empty and sucking up enormous amounts of fuel. Why not use smaller, more efficient vehicles for mass transportation? And when a normal size bus is required for rush hour or special events, they could be scheduled again.
This wouldn't take much planning, and perhaps a double dipper could be assigned do it to earn their second undeserved paycheck. Or perhaps a deserving senior citizen, unused to government inefficiency, could perform that task. Wait a minute. I'm making sense. Darn, now I can't run for political office.
Don Derkach, Seminole
A way out of mayoral snarl April 23
How obscure could clause possibly be?
This editorial refers to "an obscure clause" in the Kenneth City charter. This is at least the fifth time I have seen this phrase in your newspaper.
How obscure is this clause? How many pages are there in the Kenneth City charter? How much space is devoted to mayoral qualifications, and to this clause? Is the typeface for this clause smaller than the rest of the charter? Of course, everything in the charter is obscure if no one bothers to read it.
Don Pansch, St. Petersburg