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Substitutes face a web of bureaucracy

Re: Schools scramble to find substitute teachers, Oct. 23.

I am a young and talented college graduate. I went to college for four years to get my degree in education. Last year, I taught in a private school and was unhappy with the politics of it all. This year, I made it my mission to get into the public school system in Pinellas County. Unfortunately, my efforts failed. So I took a position as an administrator for a wholesale company.

I was disappointed that after four years of hard work, I was unable to get a position in my field of expertise. I have since determined that the red tape wrapped around the education system cost me the opportunity I was looking to find.

I applied to the Pinellas County Board of Education and passed a general exam given to all teaching applicants. I was then told that all I had to do was call the job line to set up interviews with the principals. But when I called to set up interviews, I was told that I would have to send in a resume to them, prior to setting up an interview. Well, by the time I had sent out my resumes, the positions had been filled. So I decided that maybe I should substitute teach.

Substitute teaching is quite the bureaucratic web in the state of Florida. I was insulted that after four years of teacher training, I would have to pay to take a substitute teaching class! I have student loans from four years of college; I needed a job, not another course! Why is it that someone with a degree and teacher certification in the state of Florida can't substitute teach without taking a class on it?

So, ultimately, I decided that I didn't have the time or money to invest in substitute teaching. I couldn't afford to take a class and then sit home in hopes of being called to substitute teach. That would have been a gamble on a much-needed income. These days families need two incomes, and substitute teaching is never a guarantee. I feel that less red tape and more support by the education community would promote more people into giving substitute teaching a chance. I know I would have done it.

Heidi Demers, St. Petersburg

I read with some amusement your front-page article on Oct. 23, concerning the state's dire need for substitute teachers (Schools scramble to find substitute teachers).

I came to Florida early in September after retiring from a 33-year teaching career in Maryland. I have a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University, 30 hours beyond a master's degree and had a desire to substitute in Marion County.

I went to the Marion County Board of Education and was informed that I had to be fingerprinted to the tune of $62, provide original transcripts from each university I attended _ $25 or so apiece (copies were just not acceptable); and, finally, I needed to pay the School Board another $35 forI'm not quite sure what!

When our home is completed, it will be on the Marion County-Lake County line. After checking into Lake County, I was informed that to substitute teach there, I would need to start all over _ "new" fingerprints, another $100, more transcripts, etc.!

No wonder you have no substitutes! Where else do you pay $100 or more to apply for a job?

I am happily employed at a local department store, and Marion-Lake County students are minus a

master teacher who really wanted an opportunity to serve them!

Valerie J. Hoopengardner, Ocala

Substitutes face daily test

Re: Schools scramble to find substitute teachers, Oct. 23.

When the school year begins, there is a well-known strategy that must be played out between the students and their teacher. The students, with arms crossed, do their best to test the mettle of their teacher. Seasoned teachers are tested _ not much, but they do get probes. This drill is the acid test of teaching; the students will make or break a new teacher. For a new teacher, the test goes on until he or she has gained the students' respect through classroom organization _ that is, a defined structure of expectations and behaviors. Notice that personality, knowledge base and gender at this point are not student considerations.

Now, imagine that every day we teach is the first day of school _ imagine being tested by students all year. Welcome to substitute teaching. We are armed with determination but little else until we get to the teacher's desk and (hopefully) find a starting point. Being a "sub," a term used by students and educators, is the most difficult teaching position in education today _ all for $50 to $65 a working day. Now can we see why there might be a shortage?

John Oliver, St. Petersburg

No lunch is no big deal

Re: Schools are a serving short of common sense, Oct. 23.

Can we get a grip here? The child lost her lunch money, so she was at risk of missing one meal. Big deal!

What happened to "Neither a borrower nor a lender be"? The schools I attended had no lunch fund. If you were careless enough to lose your lunch money, you missed lunch or shared with a friend. I don't remember finding any skeletons of children starved from missing a meal. Guess what? Next time you were more careful with your money.

This child at least got something to eat.

And what did she learn by having Daddy intervene and calling the media, etc.? That she is not responsible for her actions, and she gets Dad to cause a fuss so she gets her picture in the newspaper.

Is this what we need to teach our children?

This is hardly "news" that should make it to the paper. Must have been a really slow news day!

G.G. Williams, St. Petersburg

Change the way students pay for lunch

Re: Children's lunch program.

After continually reading about stories such as the girl who lost her lunch money, kids being beat up at school for lunch money, etc., why don't the schools change the lunch program where children pay daily? The parents could send a check on Mondays to the school, paying for their children's lunches for a week, month, etc.

This would also cut down on the children skipping lunch so that they can save their money for other things such as toys, virtual pets and, in high school, drugs.

I would like to see this system talked about in future school meetings or taken into consideration by the PTA.

Dawn M. Baumgardner, Homosassa

Open chancellor search to public

Bravo on your Oct. 19 editorial Searching in the dark, detailing the closed search for Florida's next chancellor of the state university system. I would like to echo your sentiments.

As a strong proponent for the public's right to access and participate in the government process, I am appalled that the Board of Regents would exclude the public from the search for Charles Reed's replacement. The comment by Regents' chairman Steve Uhlfelder, "Judge us by our end result," flies in the face of the public's right to be informed. You adequately pointed out that such secrecy undermines the integrity of this search.

I hope that the governor, the remaining members of the Cabinet and the members of the Florida Legislature will join me in calling for the Regents to open the search process. Public officers such as the Board of Regents uphold the public trust; the Regents should be honored to represent Floridians as their "public servants." By exploiting a legal loophole to exclude Florida citizens from the search for a new chancellor, the Board of Regents is breaching the public trust and falling woefully short of that title.

Sandra B. Mortham, secretary of state, Tallahassee

Reduced to expletives

Re: For St. Pete Cops, expletives deleted, Oct. 18.

Profanity is the linguistic tool of the inarticulate.

Anita Ferron, St. Petersburg

Re: Profanity has no place in proper police work, letter, Oct. 23, responding to For St. Pete cops, expletives deleted, Oct. 18.

I believe this proves a double standard.

Wrong for authority to use profane, abusive and/or suggestive language, but proper for actors, TV, magazines, any newspaper, the Internet. What's wrong with people's morals and decency?

M. Holly, St. Petersburg

Stop shirking responsibility

In the Oct. 22 editorial I accept responsibility, you stated that the sentence Deborah Lyons received was "just." I disagree with your assessment. She pleaded guilty to arson and should have received the mandatory sentence prescribed by the law. Due to the circumstances involved in this matter, I agree with your opinion that she is no threat to society, even though she did endanger others by her actions. Rather than setting her free or sending her to jail, I believe society would have been better served by sentencing her to house arrest for the mandatory term.

Society has the right to expect _ and demand _ that people accept responsibility for their actions and that they suffer the consequences of those actions. In this case, Mrs. Lyons initially did not accept responsibility for her actions. She subsequently changed the story she gave officials when she was first arrested. In fact, a public attempt was made to discredit the veracity of the officers who made the initial arrest. For whatever reason, she returned to the original (and presumably truthful) version in court Oct. 20. Her reason for committing the arson was that she was "drinking and under stress."

I sympathize with her situation; she no doubt was carrying a heavy burden, but "drinking and under stress" is not an acceptable excuse for the commission of a crime, nor is it an acceptable reason for not being appropriately punished for that crime. In my opinion, the judge and prosecutor did not do their respective jobs.

This is yet another example of our society's not holding people accountable for their actions.

William S. O'Brien, St. Petersburg

Pictures are upsetting

You have done it again. You have printed yet another picture in your newspaper that is both upsetting and distasteful. First it was the alligator that had been needlessly slaughtered for sport, next the baby seal being beaten to death by a hunter and, most recently, the picture of the bull trying to escape from the torture of the spears he was being pierced with before his death.

It is bad enough that these terrible actions take place in this world, but must you inflict the sight of the pain and death of these poor animals on us, the readers?

Surely you can find something more newsworthy for the pages of your paper.

Sarah Osterholt, St. Petersburg

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