Voucher issues stay on ballot | Aug. 5, story
Amendments look like more Jeb Bush deviousness Greg Turbeville, former policy aide to Jeb Bush and one of Jeb's hand-picked minions on the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, has the nerve to charge that the Florida Education Association "is using litigation to discredit vouchers in the eyes of voters."
The FEA has no need to discredit vouchers in the eyes of voters. Voucher schemes have been resoundingly rejected by voters every time they've been on the ballot. Last year, conservative Utah voters overwhelmingly defeated a voucher proposal on their ballot, and in 2000, both Michigan and California did the same.
According to the National School Boards Association, there have been 11 state referendums on various voucher programs since 1972, and every single one of them was rebuffed by voters (http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/2007/11/ballot_measures_defeated_nationwide/).
That's why Jeb's latest devious plan was to have his disciples on the commission try to deceive Florida voters into paving the way for vouchers against their will by misleading them with titles such as "Religious Freedom" and "Requiring 65 percent of school funding for classroom instruction."
John Perry, Tampa
Simplify standards for disability claims | Aug. 2, letters
The attorney who wrote this letter is certainly more knowledgeable than I. However, in 1993 I, as a registered nurse, attempted the paperwork on my own. I gave good, solid answers backed up with physicians' reports. The responses I received made it seem as if chimpanzees were randomly punching return keys! There was no rhyme or reason to the statements made. It was very obvious that my correspondence had not been read. I got an attorney at my physician's suggestion.
My son recently got the same responses — and he had documented diabetes, heart attacks and cardiac stent placement. It took him more than two years to eventually receive help, even with an attorney.
I can just thank God that I was able to help him financially during that time.
It seems that in both cases, and quite possibly most cases, that the "plan" is simply to "put them off as long as possible, confuse them even more, and make more paperwork to be shuffled." Perhaps it's not so much that more judges are needed, but rather, that more intelligent reviewers are needed?
J.H. Sallows, Seminole
Social Security disability claims
System can work
I have been following the discussions in the paper relative to delays filing for and receiving approval for Social Security disability claims. In a letter on Saturday (Simplify standards for disability claims), an attorney experienced with the process described some of the problems and possible solutions. He talks of delays running several years for simple claims.
A family member in Michigan visited a Social Security office to discuss a possible filing for disability and applying for benefits under Social Security at age 62. The staff member suggested filing for Social Security benefits and following up with a claim for disability. In about six months he received approval for the disability claim and benefits dating back to the date of filing.
I don't know why claims are filed and approved faster in Michigan. Perhaps the Tampa office should check this out to determine what they could do better. Maybe local filers should look into filing in other regions if this is possible.
Paul C. Blatt, Dunedin
A good sales clerk is hard to find July 31, Bill Maxwell column
Good service available
I often feel as Bill Maxwell does that courtesy and service are sorely lacking in today's marketplace, but I have two good news stories to tell.
The first is the excellent service and courtesy extended to customers in the Publix supermarket at Northeast Shopping Center. When a customer asks any employee for help finding an item, it is standard practice for the employee to accompany the customer to the proper aisle and shelf. That is the daily norm at that store.
The second is the response I got when I complained by e-mail to Walgreen's headquarters about an inordinately long wait for service in the photo department at a St. Petersburg store. Within days the store manager telephoned me and apologized. He did not try to justify poor service, but sincerely apologized and extended a courtesy "freebie" for my next transaction.
All is not lost, Bill. You just have to know where to shop.
Rick Rutan, St. Petersburg
A good sales clerk is hard to find July 31, Bill Maxwell column
It was a shame that Bill Maxwell wrote his column after one incident at one store and didn't bother to do any research on the hundreds of customer service/sales people in stores nationwide. He painted all sales people with the same brush and in a very negative light.
In defense of the low-paid, overworked, abused sales people everywhere, I think it is a shame that he didn't bother to ask these sales people about the negative, demanding, nasty, abrasive customers that are out there. There are 100 percent more abusive customers than lax sales people.
He could have done sales people a service and looked at the real culprit: the stores' corporate offices that demand long hours or threaten firings, lay off extra help so the bottom line is good enough for the stockholders and place employees on rotations where they only enjoy one weekend at home a month.
It is apparent Bill Maxwell would rather criticize the oppressed than look deeper and see the conditions so many of the sales people work under.
Sue Stephens, Clearwater
Lag in volunteering is news to charities | July 31, story
Volunteers stick with it
I read this article with great interest. It came out the same week as we at the Florida Holocaust Museum heard that one of our longtime volunteers, Joe Simmens, had died after a lengthy and heroic battle with cancer. It also came in the same month that we lost another volunteer, Bernice Greenhouse, after her courageous battle with illness. These beloved volunteers are just two of a long list of committed volunteers we have at the museum.
I am proud to say that we do not fit the profile of your article. Our retention rate is very high. We have many volunteers who have been with us for more than 10 years. They come, week in and week out, despite illness and personal commitments.
Our volunteers are treated with respect and honor. We cannot do what we do without every one of them. Would we like more volunteers? Of course. But retention, commitment to our mission and passion run high here at our museum.
If Sherri Day would like to do a follow-up story or reach out to some of our volunteers, please let me know. I was pleased to see that it was Sherri Day who had written the article since she has been to the Florida Holocaust Museum and knows what we do.
Carolyn Bass, museum director,
Florida Holocaust Museum,
Effective teaching goes beyond certificates | Aug. 6, letters
It is a 'gold standard'
Obviously the letter writer had questions about national board certification, but only guessed at the answers. Yes, national board certification is a nationally recognized educational credential throughout the United States. It was developed over a decade ago to promote best teaching practices, and has encouraged teachers to become highly accomplished at their craft.
It is not a "course of study," but a rigorous personalized study by a teacher that may take up to three years to successfully complete. It includes emphasis on knowledge of subject, child development, classroom culture, community outreach and peer collaboration. All work must be proven through video lessons and/or written documentation.
The vast majority of more than 150 research studies have found that national board teachers make a significant, measurable impact on student learning, engagement and achievement. Yes, national board certification is a "gold standard."
Sharon Hogan, national board certified teacher, Tampa