Scholar's track | May 15
A young man who made his way
I was very happy to read your story last Sunday of Bennie Niles IV and his successful quest for admission to esteemed Dartmouth University. It is incredible to see such a sense of purpose in a young person that he ignores peer pressure (and its almost addictive effect on his peers) to be so focused on his educational endeavors. It leaves this 64-year-old very optimistic about the future that young scholars such as Bennie will be leading our country. Congratulations to his committed parents. Please keep us informed on his future endeavors and successes in your newspaper.
Michael Fuller, Crystal River
Students' drive is required
The story of Clearwater High's Bennie Niles, who was admitted to Dartmouth University, was front page of the Tampa Bay section, but it should have been front page of the newspaper. According to the article, he is a standout in class and on the football field and disproves the charge that African-American students are not being taught properly.
We have been hearing a lot about teachers and the school system failing to teach African-American students. Niles and others like him contradict this assertion. The article alluded to his living in an area where peer pressure could easily lead to drugs, gangs, crime, etc. But Niles chose to take the route of a student athlete with a 4.5 GPA.
We often forget that there are two components to education: teaching and learning. We hear all too often that changes are needed in teaching. It has become the excuse for poor grades. The second component, however, is learning, which is the job of the student who must work at their education. Parents' involvement, interest, and encouragement in their child's education is also crucial.
Don Murphy, Clearwater
Florida black bear may lose endangered status | May 18
We're crowding out bears
We are the almighty, building our concrete pathways and buildings right in the middle of nature. What are those things walking across our roads trying to not get hit while simply going on about their day? There were 4,191 complaints of bears getting into some trouble. I am sure there were just as many complaints about dogs, raccoons, buzzards and homeless people getting into trash. Are we going to shoot them also? Trash bins by the road is like an open buffet.
Laurent Vallat, Trinity
A call for civility in the age of rage May 15 column
All sides guilty of vitriol
The recent column by Bill Maxwell speaks of vitriol between the liberals and conservatives and how it will be corrosive in the upcoming election. He is correct. I would, however, like to point out that while President Barack Obama did ask that everyone tone down the rhetoric, he is the guiltiest one of all. His recent speech from Arizona making light of the lack of security at the border and even falsely claiming the border is secure is part of that rhetoric. The Republicans are not against legal immigration, yet he says, "Maybe they'll say we need a moat. Or alligators in the moat."
Maxwell mentions that when one ideology has the majority the views of the other go unheard and creates what he called "Mob Rule," and he is correct. But I argue that even now the majority of Americans want a secure border, a balanced budget and a school curriculum that is not filled with lessons on how to overthrow the government.
When will it become clear that we do not have to reinvent the wheel here? The founders and God saw to everything. Build a nation where men and women are free to pursue and strive for whatever goals inspire them, make them all responsible for themselves and give them a secure place to do it. God gave us 10 rules by which to lead our lives, any one of which would stop crime and hate in its tracks. But some argue that separation of church and state means you can't believe and govern.
Robert Joantzke, Holiday
Schools defend $900,000 for iPads | May 19
Cheaper option out there
Clearly, none of the Hillsborough School Board members are qualified to make relevant technology choices. For around a quarter of the cost of iPads, you could wholesale the same amount of Android tablets with similar and relevant educational features. Not only that, but if the school system actually employs a geek worth their paycheck, they can make a custom software image to suit their needs. Maybe it's time for the school system to "Think Different."
Everett C.W. Byrd, Tampa
Do the math
The Hillsborough County School Board has purchased 900 Apple iPads for $900,000 for two Tampa middle schools. Let's do the math. The iPad only retails for $350 to $600. Even using the high end of $600, the iPads should only have cost $540,000. The difference ($360,000!) is for "staff training and other services."
Let's take service. It's not like one has to change the oil or check the tires on these computers. They either work or they don't. If they fail, they get replaced under warranty.
So, the bulk of the extra $360,000 must be for training. Let's say the training costs $100 per hour: $360,000 buys 3,600 hours of training. That's 90 weeks! That's almost two years full time! Maybe the training is one-on-one. Let's say the student/teacher ratio is 16:1. With 900 students, that's 56 teachers. So 3,600 hours of training spread over 56 teachers is still 64 hours of training per teacher — eight full days each.
The whole deal stinks to high heaven. I wonder if there is any relationship between the administrators who approved this giveaway and the vendor who is making out like a bandit thanks to their largesse. Just wondering.
Philip R. Thompson, Tierra Verde
Lessons for GOP in Jax mayoral race? May 20 analysis
Why contest was close
I contend the race in Jacksonville was only close because of tea party participation. Republican candidate Mike Hogan had many tea party foot soldiers walking his precincts to counter DNC Organizing For America and MoveOn soldiers in Democrat Alvin Brown's camp. But the real divide that made the difference in this race was party involvement, or lack thereof. The Democratic Party of Florida showered Brown with $528,000 while the Republican Party of Florida gave Hogan a paltry $24,000 a mere five days before the election. Why? Was this a simple oversight? Is the RPOF broke? I believe the answer is that the "prominent" Republican class wanted a mayor they could control and they did not see that in tea party favorite Mike Hogan.
Karen Jaroch, Tampa