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Letters to the Editor

There are too many unanswered questions about teacher pay

Reform teacher pay | Oct. 23, editorial

Too many unanswered questions

As an adult college student seeking to become a middle school special education teacher, I read your editorial with great interest.

I have several friends who are longtime teachers, so I've heard many stories from them about the lunacy that being a teacher is and what teachers are forced to endure daily, as well as annually.

Your editorial fails to address many key issues in teacher pay scales. And your editorial proposals fall far short in areas that matter, namely, reality.

First: How does overall teacher pay in Florida compare with other states?

Second: Teachers must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree, and many positions now require or highly recommend a master's degree. How does that compare with police officers and firefighters who only need to attend an academy for six months in many places?

Third: Why isn't police and firefighter pay tied to performance?

Fourth: Many students are highly disruptive in classrooms in C, D and F schools, and principals and parents won't support teachers' efforts to maintain discipline in classrooms. So should we be cutting pay for those teachers whose students don't want to learn and won't pass tests?

Are you going to give bonuses to honors class teachers, whose students perform beyond the norm?

How are you going to pay special ed teachers whose students are not included in FCAT or other testing criteria?

When the public discourse includes differential pay and performance pay for police, firefighters and school administrators, and docking the pay for those employees deemed "underachieving," I'll take your editorial viewpoints as valid.

Michael Scott Gary, Tampa

Reform teacher pay | Oct. 23, editorial

Don't rely on tests

when judging teachers

I was disappointed to see your paper jumping on the bandwagon of one of the worst ideas to hijack public education in recent years: paying teachers based on test scores. Politicians love it because it's simplistic, but there are so many factors to consider when it comes to good teaching. A test score is one slice of the pie, and how a student scores is not always the teacher's fault.

Teaching is an art, not unlike preaching. Many of the same qualities that one would expect from a good clergy member are the same ones that mark a good teacher: compassion, patience, honesty, trust and dedication. How would you "grade" a priest or a minister? He or she can deliver a powerful, instructive sermon on Sunday morning, but if a parishioner goes out and robs a bank on Monday, is that the minister's fault? Of course not. When a person sitting in the pews is ready to listen, only then will the sermon's message reach them.

Likewise, if a teacher teaches the lesson, but the students aren't ready because they're tired or sick, or don't do the homework, or if the parents leave the TV on all day and night and don't ask about schoolwork, is that the teacher's fault? Of course not. A teacher can only be expected to try, but the students and parents must do their part.

Like police officers and firefighters, teachers are public servants who deal with many factors out of their control. Paying them based on simplistic, unreliable measures is a misuse of tax dollars. What needs "reforming" is the emphasis on standardized testing in education today.

Sarah Robinson, Safety Harbor

Reform teacher pay | Oct. 23, editorial

A welcome approach

The editorial is some of the most promising news I have read about the Pinellas public education system. Time will tell whether its potential translates into benefits for students and the closing of gaps. It reflects a change of position long held by teacher unions and a better correlation between teacher performance and student achievement. Patience is required because addressing embedded problems will take time.

The new tack is consistent with what President Barack Obama and his education secretary have advocated and pushed for. It is consistent with the Florida Chamber of Commerce's call for education improvements. If successful this could mean better and more interesting lives for students.

I think the new Pinellas venture should also mean an open mind be kept on charter schools and vouchers, which have worked in a few places. The good news may mean we start to recognize the importance of rewarding good teachers like other professionals and that public education doesn't have a one-size-fits-all approach to students.

James R. Gillespie, St. Petersburg

Taser to police: Aim lower | Oct. 23, story

Deal with Taser problems

The Taser, and its ilk, is fraught with the potential of abuse. Some fear exists that officers will use the Taser more aggressively just because they think it is not deadly. Human nature dictates that shooting at a person is the ultimate act, but giving some loud-mouthed, uncooperative person a little shock for good measure is tempting.

People with mental illness experiencing an episode are a prime group to be Tasered. They are unruly, aggressive, animated, violent, uncooperative, sometimes fearless, and seemingly impervious to pain. This makes them perfect candidates for the Taser. Unfortunately, they are also more susceptible to have their deaths attributed to the so-called "agitated delirium" diagnosis as they are often in poor physical health, overweight, and medicated with powerful psychotropic medications or self-medicating with street drugs of dubious potency.

If Tasers, or their successors, are here to stay, sheriffs and police chiefs must ensure that officers are regularly trained in stun-gun weaponry.

Neither the police, nor the politicians, nor the public can further ignore Taser use and be complacent about its future in American law enforcement.

Donald Turnbaugh, past president, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Pinellas County, Palm Harbor

Another entitlement for seniors | Oct. 22, George Will column

Support the supplement

Yoooww! Pinellas County seniors must be fighting mad after reading George Will's attack on the proposed $250 entitlement for seniors who will receive no Social Security COLA next year. According to Will, not only are prices dropping but the cost of living will decrease even more as a result of no COLA.

Rents and medical costs are going up. Supermarket costs are soaring. Fuel costs are increasing. Bus fares went up and Progress Energy is seeking a raise. In what alternate universe are prices decreasing? It's a good time to write your senators and representative urging quick approval of the supplement.

John Royse, St. Petersburg

Another entitlement for seniors | Oct. 22, George Will column

Words, words, words

I always read George Will, but more for entertainment and vocabulary enhancement than policy pronouncements. His proclivity for verbiage, however just might set a record with this column. The first sentence includes 93 words, if my senior eyes do not deceive me! My plan is to reread Strunk and White's Elements of Style and send Will the chapter on brevity. And would you please ask one of your grammarians to diagram that sentence?

I wish George Will a long and happy life, longer even (metaphorically) than his first sentence.

Norm Bungard, St. Petersburg

There are too many unanswered questions about teacher pay 10/26/09 [Last modified: Monday, October 26, 2009 6:56pm]

    

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