Union opposes school progress | Dec. 27, letter
Teachers want fair evaluations
I think Rep. Will Weatherford needs a reality check. The union doesn't oppose school progress. It opposes subjective, ill-advised methods of teacher evaluation. Most systems proposed thus far depend on two components: test scores (read FCAT) and principal evaluations. Let me relate a few reasons why these factors have little relation to determining quality teaching.
Currently FCAT scores are proposed to be used for evaluation. Improvements in FCAT scores might be reasonable. Overall scores are not. A very significant factor, even in improvement, is class makeup. Depending on the school, either new teachers or teachers with good class management skills are usually given "problem" children. Is it fair that they are judged the same as teachers with students having a history of high achievement and few behavior issues?
Principal evaluations can be nothing more than an indication of how little trouble the teacher causes the principal. Those who rock the boat get thrown overboard.
If merit pay is the objective, the teachers would be much more open to an evaluation that parallels the national teacher evaluation system already established, which has multiple requirements and no test scores or principal evaluation components. Recent cuts in assistance to apply for this program and rewards once the designation of master teacher is attained would cause some concern regarding the seriousness of our legislators about putting their money where their mouths are. This, however, would at least be an objective evaluation system and could be supported by teachers and their union.
Dan Burris, Lutz
Union opposes school progress | Dec. 27, letter
Schools can't be run like a business
As a Pinellas County teacher, I feel compelled to respond to state Rep. Will Weatherford's letter.
The local unions are not sabotaging state efforts. The Republican-led Legislature over the last several years has shifted a large amount of school funding away from the state and put the burden of funding at the local level.
Contrary to the Florida Department of Education's beliefs, schools cannot be run as a business. Before teaching, I worked in the business world for 10 years and was accountable for my performance. Teachers teach children. Children are not cookie-cutter molds. It is unfair for teachers to be rewarded based on their students' scores, as classrooms do not start out on a level playing field.
Teachers are currently the "testers." If teachers are rewarded monetarily by test score results, teachers will teach to the test. Ultimately the ones who will suffer from the teachers' rewards will be the students. Sure, our students will be able to take tests, but our classrooms will become skill and drill rooms, instead of classrooms where students think, question and discuss.
Teachers do want accountability, guidelines and resources, but unlike the business world, there are too many variables that are out of our control. Teachers are dedicated workers who care about one thing: students' success.
Tina M. Suleiman, St. Pete Beach
Scanners reveal all, but are hardly used Dec. 29
Bring on the scanners
High-tech body scanners should be mandatory in all airports. The American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy watchdogs should remember that flying is a consumer choice. It is not a right. Anyone concerned that the scanners are too invasive can choose an alternative means of transportation.
Personally, I consider the scanners less invasive than being blown apart by a bomb at 30,000 feet.
Douglas H. Brown, Zephyrhills
Satire alert: Liberal take on terrorism Dec. 30, Debra Saunders column
Try separate screenings
I enjoyed the subtle humor of Debra Saunders' column concerning political correctness and airport security. I agree with much of what she said.
However, there is a solution that balances individuals who are more concerned about their right to privacy than air safety. We could have two security lines in place. At one time there was one security line for frequent flyers who could get through security much faster.
I propose this line be replaced by individuals such as me who do not object to the "invasive" body scans and other methods to detect contraband items. These individuals could arrive at the airport an hour or two before flight time and can be zipped through security. This can be patterned after the Sun Pass or exact change lanes at toll roads.
The second line would be for individuals who object to such measures and could be subject to questioning, wanding, and other procedures that take more time. These individuals would come to the airport four hours earlier and would be similar to the toll pass lanes where individuals do not have exact change or easy pass media.
James Pirretti, St. Petersburg
Will we pay the price?
I hear a lot about how our government is not doing enough for air safety. What I don't hear is anybody willing to pay for it. All I hear is people saying they want their taxes cut. If you don't want to pay for government, how can you expect it to accomplish anything?
Christopher Radulich, Apollo Beach
Gators' Meyer steps down | Dec. 27
Put the focus elsewhere
Please contain the retirement of University of Florida football coach Urban Meyer to one news cycle. The "will-he" or "won't-he" circus surrounding Florida State coach Bobby Bowden has gone on ad nauseam.
These are two highly compensated individuals. They likely have wonderful retirement packages, including superb health care plans.
Now, as the late radio personality Paul Harvey would have said, "Let's look at the rest of the story." Let's focus on the 11 percent of Floridians who are unemployed, without income and health care benefits. That's where the headline ought to be.
Robert Bucklin, Zephyrhills
This week in history | Dec. 30
Keep looking back
Say it ain't so! As a fairly new resident of St. Petersburg (six years), I eagerly await the This week in history section of the paper, which gives a fascinating look back into the history of this great city. Coming from a city with no history (Orlando), I think it is a great and interesting section of the paper.
So why is it being discontinued? Why not continue it? Readers? Local historian Will Michaels? How about a public outcry to keep it?
After all, those who don't learn from history …
Larry Heinkel, St. Petersburg