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Union does more than serve teachers; it serves children

Editor: Regarding Chester M. Smith's letter of Feb. 6 concerning teachers unions: Because my husband and I are both teachers, I feel somewhat qualified to discuss schools in Pasco County. I tried to talk to Mr. Smith on the phone about his letter and where he had gotten his information. All he would say was that he had been writing about teachers for 30 years and didn't want to discuss it any further. In the letter it sounded as if Mr. Smith mainly was concerned about his taxes because he is "retired, a homeowner, a taxpayer and living on a fixed income." Teachers and non-instructional employees pay taxes, too. Unfortunately, many won't be able to afford to buy a home as Mr. Smith has. Does he realize that a beginning teacher trying to support a family of four (spouse and two children) can qualify for reduced lunches for his children, according to Pasco County's National School Lunch Program/School Breakfast program? Non-instructional employees earn less than that.

I think it is a shame in a country where the "work ethic" is so highly regarded, that people working full time are at or near the poverty level, and an ex-president can earn $60,000 for an hour-long speech for Burger King executives.

The union that represents me is interested in dedication to a job and feels that we have a right to make a decent living and work in a safe place without fear of harassment. What Mr. Smith doesn't seem to realize is that most of the things our union wants will benefit the children we teach. Some of these things are smaller classes so we can give individual time to our students and more planning time so we can arrange parent conferences to help students who are "at risk."

Contrary to what Mr. Smith thinks, teachers do need to be paid a wage that is competitive with business so that the "good" teachers do not leave after a few years because they can't support their families.

Also, contrary to Mr. Smith's statement, teachers can be and are fired. We have procedures for dismissal, just as in any other job.

Does he feel someone should be released without a hearing or a chance to improve?

I agree that the school corporation is like a business, and that we do need good financial advisers. Does Mr. Smith know that the union has often asked how the school system can decrease costs in certain areas?

I disagree with Mr. Smith that voters should overlook anyone with an educational background for a School Board election. Who else knows what is going on in the schools? That is like saying Assistant Superintendent and state Rep. John Long shouldn't be able to sit on education committees in Tallahassee because he is employed by a school corporation. Nonsense! Don't you want doctors sitting on medical boards?

The problem with Mr. Smith seems to be that he sees our students as an assembly-line product that we stamp grades on as they pass through our classrooms. My 14 years of teaching experience in Indiana and Florida have shown me that you pay now or later. Research shows that most people in prison did not do well in school. It costs a lot less to educate someone than to incarcerate them, and that doesn't count the money spent on the court costs or the damage done by the crime itself.

It's interesting that the same day Mr. Smith's letter appeared in the newspaper, there was a letter in Ann Landers' column about teachers being overworked and underpaid. Maybe he should read it or volunteer in a classroom to see what is happening in Pasco County's schools.

I wonder if Mr. Smith's bitterness might be the result of a bad experience in school. If so, he shouldn't blame all of us. At my school and at the schools I have visited, I see teachers who are caring and concerned for the students they teach. We are trying to make them enjoy school and want to be there so they will be able to function in this society and have their taxes pay Mr. Smith's Social Security benefits and someday mine, too.

I'm proud of what I do and the people I work with; teachers,

administrators, cooks, custodians, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, secretaries and bookkeepers. We all deserve to live a decent life.

Susan Fisher Zephyrhills School Board needs to be accessible

Editor: What are they trying to hide?

Maybe the School Board meets the letter of the Sunshine Law - but it sure doesn't meet the intent of the law.

Officials schedule their meetings in the center of the county, where most of the population isn't, and in the morning, when only the sector of the public that could freely attend are our retired residents who, after rearing their own children, don't care anymore to get involved. The group that does care, that does have children in school, has to be somewhere else earning a living to raise those kids.

Because of that inconvenience I requested through a board member that the board set up a system whereby concerned residents could get involved and be informed.

Before the meeting, the superintendent's office prepares the agenda for the upcoming meeting (and will mail it to anyone who calls and requests it.) To support that agenda, the staff also prepares a backup document report with contracts, schedules, data and so forth.

I requested to get on the mailing list for that report and even offered to pay for the costs involved. I even suggested that they send those reports to each county library, where they would be more convenient to everyone in Pasco.

The board's answer was to make the reports available at the county

government center (which is open only during normal business hours) using the cost factor as a deciding issue.

Obviously, when the legislators passed the Sunshine Law, they knew it was going to cost money, but it was worth it to have an informed citizenry. I guess the board thinks differently.

Robert K. Avitable Port Richey Edition omitted Hudson wrestlers

Editor: My husband has his own business, runs advertising in your Pasco section, we have the paper delivered to us every day. We are good customers.

One thing has upset me all year, and today's (Feb. 9) edition really clinched it.

We have a son who is a senior at Hudson High School. He is a wrestler. There is hardly ever anything in the paper about our wrestlers. Especially the edition of wrestling on Feb. 9. Every school is mentioned about the tournament that was the next day - except our boys at Hudson High. What is the problem? Why is it the boys at Hudson are never mentioned? I would appreciate some kind of response from you.

Laura Stanjeski Hudson Thomas Edison story flipped a switch

Editor: Congratulations on the article Sunday about Eugene Balstraz and his association with Thomas Edison. Keep up the good work. There must be thousands of people on the Suncoast who have had useful and interesting careers. Their stories are worth telling so that the young people will have suitable role models to emulate.

The criminals, drug addicts, over-publicized (and overpaid) college and pro athletes aren't worth the attention they receive, but these are the people who receive the media's publicity. (I forgot to include funky entertainers; are such people worth the millions of dollars they receive for producing "entertainment"?) A successful society is developed by productive, hard-working people such as Edison and his associate Gene Balstraz. Keep giving such people all the recognition you can; a daily feature wouldn't be too much!

Stanley E. Mallen Bayonet Point

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