School problems not a surprise
We all saw this coming. We all voiced our concerns. What powers ignored the obvious and allowed this travesty to happen? It wasn't the teachers.
I was one of the teachers when the School Board decided to end busing in 2007. All of the teachers I know saw the problems coming. Someone had a mind-set to take us back to the old "separate but equal" way of education. Neighborhood schools seemed to be the mantra of that time.
So what happens? School demographics changed from all schools having a small population of high poverty students, to a few schools having most of the high poverty population. Now, instead of the small populations of high poverty students mixing and learning from the larger populations of higher income students with their values and customs, the high poverty students are put into schools with other high poverty students reinforcing all the skills and customs required to survive in their high poverty neighborhoods. Teachers struggle because their middle class upbringings and values are not relevant to the majority of these high poverty students.
I left my teaching position of 37 years in the fall of 2011. The school in south Pinellas where I taught for all those years (I also was a student there) was changing. It appeared that more and more of my students had needs that were clashing with all of the mandates coming from the state. Where I saw needs for life skills, compassion, inspiration and building a sense of community, the powers that pull the strings were mostly interested in test scores, school rankings and keeping up with the growing number of discipline problems.
It was very difficult for me to leave the job I loved. But things were not moving forward. Things were falling back to a place we struggled so hard to get away from.
Alan Mowry, St. Pete Beach
Parents are the answer
So let's throw money at the problem, play the blame game and send the unruly, violent kids to other schools. That is not the solution. The solution is a parent who teaches their children right from wrong, good manners, respect for teachers and each other. Sometimes it doesn't take a village to raise a child. If children have people at home who guide them and steer them in the right direction much of the violent behavior will decrease.
Charles Bacchi, Palm Harbor
Issues begin before school
The five elementary schools in south St. Petersburg are not "failure factories." They are illustrations of our failure to face the difficulties of raising children in environments plagued with poverty and the drug- and crime-infested economic system.
We are spinning in circles if we believe that the silver bullet solutions are mixing skin colors in the classroom or more behavior specialists or a few more training courses for our teachers, tweaking the curriculum and more money. Special interests will be advocating one or more of these paths.
The problems begin before school starts. They are deeply rooted in how a child is nurtured from the womb through the first three years. As the pioneering work of the USF St. Petersburg Family Study Center has shown, it is in those early years that a child develops the emotional skills so necessary for later cognitive development.
Children who are not properly nurtured have a much greater probability of being insecure, aggressive, fearful, and have difficulty concentrating and learning. But as the Family Study Center has shown, there are new models for co-parenting that have a high success rate in developing a child that will be ready and able to learn, and contribute to a stable learning environment.
Merle F. Allshouse, St. Petersburg
Help parents of victims
I have grave concerns about the lack of resources given to the south St. Petersburg schools. I am appalled at the violence at the elementary school level. This is not a problem that we can just throw money at. We need the help of community leaders, neighbors, parents and resources for those children and parents. But it needs to start with parents and community leaders standing up against their own. If a child punched my child in the face, I would expect action by the school and I would want a network where I could meet with other parents whose children have been victimized. I'd be looking for community support from my church and neighbors. There needs to be resources for these types of needs. My guess is for every violent, poorly behaved child there are 10 good kids. So if those 10 parents and community leaders put the pressure on the parent with the delinquent kid, the children wouldn't need to join that bad kid for survival. Put the resources into educational support for the parents of the victimized children.
Robyn Burlingame, Palm Harbor
Women's Equality Day
Reason to celebrate
Why celebrate today, Aug. 26? It is Women's Equality Day, the date on which the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote was certified as law, having gained ratification by the requisite number of states. When this occurred in 1920, the successful suffragettes found the battle was far from won. They still had to register 50 percent of the country and educate and encourage women to vote.
It was then that the League of Women Voters was founded to ensure the participation of women as active and informed citizens. Women's Equality Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on the progress made on voting rights in the last 95 years and emphasizes the continued need to improve our election process, help voters protect the right to vote and increase citizen participation. With this anniversary and the league's 95th celebration in 2015, we are reminded of how far we have come and how far we still must travel for true equality and free and fair access for all eligible voters. The league continues today with men and women members all across America uniting under the motto "Making Democracy Work." That is cause indeed for celebration.
Shirley Arcuri, president, League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County