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Teachers and schools deserve better support

Re: Teachers' salaries grow pale in comparison, report says, Jan. 13.

We were appalled to read your recent front page article describing how much less teachers are paid than other professionals with similar educations. For the past eight years I have been a volunteer tutor to fourth and fifth graders at Maximo Elementary School. I have been impressed by the dedication of the teachers, who often pay out of their own pockets for supplies the children need.

But the low esteem with which we regard our teachers is evidenced in their restroom where the toilet paper is so thin you could read the St. Petersburg Times through it, where the paper towels are brown and also flimsy and where there is no hot water!

What's more, I am shocked that the children can't take books home to study because there aren't enough texts to go around.

Then in the Jan. 16 paper, a tiny article said that researchers in Ohio found only two of 32 classrooms studied had adequate acoustics for children to hear what is being taught. Perhaps we should study the acoustics in Florida's open classrooms.

Our children are our future. Isn't it time to give more attention and funds to improving our schools and paying our teachers what they deserve? Incidentally, the competence of some tenured teachers has been publicly questioned (with justification). Perhaps a better pay scale would attract more of the qualified graduates to become teachers.

Betty Louise Pieper, St. Petersburg

The reality of a teaching job

Re: Don't pity the teachers, letter, Jan. 14.

It is obvious that the letter writer is completely unaware of what his wife and daughter do for a living. I do not know where his wife and daughter teach on average 165 days per year, but the vast majority of public schools throughout the country require students to attend school 180 days per year. In Pinellas County, teachers are paid for 196 days (unless they are employed at a school that has an extended year).

Teachers do not get paid for time off in the summer, winter break, or spring break. Also, teachers are not the only professionals who are off on legal holidays _ bank employees, brokerage employees and postal workers also come to mind. No one berates them for having time off.

My suggestion to the letter writer is to volunteer in any one of the many schools in Pinellas County. He could then see firsthand the challenges that face teachers in the classroom. Only then will he be somewhat qualified to voice his opinion on the "poor" unappreciated teachers.

Joni T. Jonas, St. PetersburgConsider the price of ignorance

Re: Don't pity the teachers, letter.

I won't bore the writer with the plight of the poor teacher since his wife and daughter are in the profession; however, I would like to point out that winter break, spring break and summer vacation are unpaid holidays. Many teachers work during these times to make up for the loss of income or save up during the year so they can support themselves and their families.

Teachers work 180 student days and several additional days without students for county meetings, professional planning and pre- and post-planning.

If the writer thinks teachers are overpaid or don't earn their money, maybe he should consider the price of ignorance.

Marilyn G. Porter, St. Petersburg

Learning-disabled students overlooked

Re: Panel: No overhaul for Bright Futures, Jan. 8.

It's about time that the state panel reassesses the qualifications for the Bright Future scholarships. There has been a lot of emphasis on raising our standards of education, and this scholarship needs to keep in line with that. A grade-point average of 3.0 is mediocre, and most students are capable of doing much better.

With regard to minorities and the disadvantage they might face by raising the standards, this article has forgotten one other minority _ the student who just doesn't do well on standardized tests such as the SAT.

I am one of those students. I have a learning disability for which I spent eight years in full-time special education classes. I have since been mainstreamed into honors classes upon entering high school. The qualifications for the Bright Futures scholarship should be based on an either/or qualification with regard to GPA and SAT scores. My situation is a perfect example fo justify this.

As of my last report card, I have a cumulative GPA of 3.8889 with a current quarterly GPA of 4.3333; yet because I did not score a 970 or better on my SAT, I do not qualify for the Bright Futures scholarship (or any other scholarship with similar SAT-score requirements). Something is very wrong with "the system" when one test score can wipe out four years of hard work in honors classes. This is the ultimate insult from a state Legislature that is supposed to promote education.

For all students out there with a learning disability, I say to you, continue to work hard and don't ever give up. To other students, I say, ask yourself if you have worked to your full potential.

Nicole Chalmers, Port Richey

Anti-smoking funds could be better spent

Re: State youths push anti-smoking ads, Jan. 14.

I see where these youths are hoping to get $61-million from Gov. Jeb Bush. I also read where other projects and programs are suffering due to lack of funds, most being of greater importance to the future well-being of children than the act of smoking.

Referring to tobacco ads showing beautiful people smoking, a teen is quoted: "Thanks to the Truth campaign, teens are finally getting a chance to see how false these images are." I doubt that it is false to say that some beautiful people smoke _ certainly not all, but surely some do, thus the ads are not false!

If they want a "false image," read the heading of the article. "State youths" implies and presents the image that all youths support the anti-smoking campaign whereas, according to the story, at least 20.8 percent are not supportive. Thus, the public is presented with a false image.

How many people believe that "smoking-related" means the same as "smoking-caused" illness? Anything can be labeled as related, but that does not mean it is the cause. I am related to aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, in-laws. . . Am I the cause of their well-being or ill health? Of course not! Another false image presented to the public.

Were all the youths present in Tallahassee from there or were they brought in from other areas of the state and, if so, who funded the costs of their trip? If from the anti-smoking funds, I could think of other programs that could have used the funds more efficiently, such as feeding undernourished children or treating their illnesses.

Robert N. Davis, Bradenton

Take global warming seriously

Your article 1999 makes global warming hard to deny (Jan. 14) puts the last nail in the coffin of doubt about the reality of global warming. The article cites a report recently released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and says, "Last year was the second hottest recorded in the United States, despite a La Nina phenomenon that was supposed to cool off the Earth."

The 1999 temperature statistics follow a National Research Council report that strengthens the scientific case for global warming by reconciling an apparent anomaly between surface and atmospheric temperatures. Make no mistake, global warming is for real, here and now.

As a low-lying peninsula between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, Florida arguably has the most to lose from global warming. While the vision of the Sunshine State submerged beneath rising seas is perhaps the most dire aspect of global warming predictions, destruction of our coral reefs, fresh water supply, beaches and precious Everglades ecosystem is also of serious concern. In addition to threatening the natural legacy we will leave our children, Floridians may face more extreme hurricanes, an increase in the spread of infectious diseases and hotter summer days, raising the number of heat-related deaths and illnesses.

The next question naturally is: What will we do to solve this serious environmental problem? Presidential candidates seeking to lead this nation into the new millennium should answer this question. I hope that they will not fall into a cycle of uncertainty and inaction. I urge them to demonstrate their leadership by working with scientists, public officials, and communities to develop plans to address global warming. They would be wise to take global warming as seriously as scientists do.

Lyndy Worsham, Clearwater

A miscarriage of justice

Re: State attorney defends DUI case, Dec. 31.

The judicial system in the United States is designed to ensure justice and fairness for all. This is accomplished in the vast majority of cases. However, when a mistake is made, it should be the duty of everyone involved to rectify the error.

The dismissal of the DUI-manslaughter charges against Gerald Clarke is a miscarriage of justice that should not be tolerated by the people of St. Petersburg. According to police, Clarke's recklessness resulted in the death of Nicolas de Jesus Aristizabal, a man who touched the life of everyone he met. Allowing Clarke to walk free because of prosecutorial errors minimizes the importance of Nicolas' life and sends a dangerous message to those who choose to endanger the lives of ordinary citizens by driving while intoxicated. Dealing with Clarke in a harsh manner would make him and others think twice before operating a motor vehicle after drinking.

Nothing will bring back the joy of having Nicholas in our lives but to those of us who knew him, his legacy must live on. Let's start this legacy by taking drunken drivers off our streets. If this saves one life, then Nicolas will not have died in vain.

Margarita Botero, St. Petersburg

Your health can change in an instant

Re: Old and independent, letter, Jan. 20.

I agree with the letter writer that just because I have lived a long life does not earn me special rights. However, I would encourage the letter writer to rethink his comments about being able to take care of himself. In a split second that could change and he would no longer be able to do so.

I was talking with my neighbor the other day when all of a sudden my speech became slurred, my left arm and hand went numb and I was unable to function. Thanks to my quick-thinking neighbor, my husband and the superb staff at Bayonet Point Hospital I am just fine with no residual effects from this stroke.

I am fortunate, indeed, but I realize that things can happen, and even though you may not want to rely on other people the time may come when you will have to.

N. Haddow, New Port Richey

What is more important?

Isn't it ironic that the pay that will be given to most census-takers is more than that paid to most nurses aides? Which is more important: the care of the elderly or the census?

Ellen W. Freeman, New Port Richey

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