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Don't leave your school choice up to a computer

It disturbs me that parents in Pinellas County are sitting back calmly while their School Board is making decisions about the school choice program. Few attend information sessions or write letters to the board with suggestions. I recently attended the debate among School Board candidates, and the attendance was disgracefully low.

Most parents I speak with think their child will be grandfathered into their present school or that they will truly get a choice about where their child attends school. Wake up, everyone! You get to list two choices for where you want your child to attend school, but ultimately a computer will make the decision. With one zone for high schools, that could be anywhere in Pinellas.

Where is the choice in this? Grandfathering is not a popular idea and may not be part of the new plan. And hub busing, in which all children from your neighborhood are bused to a hub site where they get on another bus to their school, may be the only way to transport the children to their "choice" of schools. Just think of the cost to do this and its effect on our children.

This choice program has been done in other areas of the country and does not always work. But the School Board never mentions these failures.

Let's put our tax dollars into improving our neighborhood schools and not into paying for mass busing for all. Many of us made our choice about where our children would go to school when we purchased our homes. We don't need to let a computer take this choice away from us.

Each person can make a difference. Let us all contact the School Board by mail or e-mail with our feelings about school choice before they make their final decisions in October.

Carol Settel, Palm Harbor

Move soup kitchens near

industry, where jobs are

Re: Program for the homeless does so much for so many, Aug. 28 letter.

Over the 16 years that we've lived here, we have watched the deterioration of the area known as the "Gulch'" (the intersection of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and Cleveland Street in Clearwater and surrounding blocks).

We've spoken to several police officers on several occasions when there were disturbances who stated that it is not a police problem but a code problem, with the soup kitchen in the middle of the neighborhood.

Maybe a small percentage of the homeless really do need structured help, but the majority of the homeless are homeless by choice. The bay area is the second-best city in the state to find a job, ranked just behind the Fort Myers/ Naples area. These shelters and soup kitchens snowball into a completely different lifestyle and one I frankly don't want anything to do with or look at.

Next comes the day labor companies that promote daily work, daily pay. This draws the folks who don't have a car because they were just released from jail or went through a DUI. After a hard day's work they take their daily pay, go down to the store and get their daily beer and have their daily street party.

The facts speak for themselves. Homeless shelters and soup kitchens draw crime, drop property values and attract a transient group. How about setting up these soup kitchens in the industrial area of the city where the jobs are?

When Mike Roberto was city manager he did a walk-through with the police and promised to start the cleanup process. Still, nothing has been done. Please tell us we have a future. We've spent way too much money on home improvements to walk. But we're close to reaching that point of no return.

Philip and Darlene Kole, Clearwater

Plan for Clearwater Beach

won't be an improvement

Re: Planner envisions beach changes, Sept. 6 story.

Well, here we go again with another redevelopment plan for Clearwater Beach. In captioning the story, the Times used good judgment in its choice of words _ "beach changes" rather than "improvements," because that is what it will be if carried out.

The entire proposal is a misguided concept, but the most outrageous part is the plan's intent to limit beach access for people who aren't "quality hotel patrons" or residents.

James W. Kiehl, Largo

Pinellas is a better place

thanks to Fred Marquis' work

The members of the Clearwater Audubon Society acknowledge and compliment Fred Marquis' conservation achievements. During his tenure as county administrator, his vision and guidance led to the preservation, restoration and protection of much of the natural beauty of Pinellas County. We congratulate him and his staff on the many successes they achieved for the environment during his administration.

Under his leadership, the staff was able to educate Pinellas citizens about important concerns, including recycling, ecosystem preservation, purchase of conservation lands and watershed restoration.

Thanks to his vision, all citizens, present and future, of Pinellas County will enjoy a greatly enhanced quality of life.

Dana Kerstein, president

Clearwater Audubon Society

Fire task force's action

saves lives on Sand Key

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst, the city commissioners and Interim City Manager Bill Horne for revisiting the Fire Task Force recommendations. The task force identified, validated and unanimously voted that fire stations on Sand Key and in northwest Clearwater were their first priority.

Sand Key is a high-density neighborhood. Demographics indicate an older population. Public safety is our No. 1 priority. Since the installation of an EMS crew at the U.S. Coast Guard Station on Sand Key, four lives have been saved. We have already had a fire at the Grande, a high-rise condo, resulting in the closing of the first 10 floors for six weeks.

Using Penny for Pinellas money to build a facility on Sand Key is a great idea. The Sand Key Park is identified as the best location. It would house the fire station, police substation and the Sand Key Volunteer Beach Patrol office and their two all-terrain vehicles.

All of us on Sand Key thank you for responding to our needs.

Joe Calio, Clearwater

Here's a shocking concept:

logic in city management

Re: Penny priorities likely to change, Aug. 30 story.

I'm shocked, just shocked, that Clearwater city leaders would rather build a fire station on Sand Key than plant trees on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. What on earth are they thinking?

Or is it that they finally are thinking? Is logic finally coming to city management? Wouldn't that be shocking?

Bob Coffey, Clearwater

Water supply can't handle

so much area development

Every time I hear about a water shortage, my hair stands on end. How can we keep approving developments, condos and high-rise apartments on every piece of vacant land and give special variances when there is not enough water to go around now?

It doesn't take much intelligence to see that there is not enough green space to let the water seep into the aquifer now. Don't make this into another concrete jungle.

Jacqueline Straub, Dunedin

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