1. Letters to the Editor

Saturday's letters: Bill draws attention to high-need schools

It is ironic that the headline on for John Romano's parent empowerment column was, "Florida House blows past facts to pass parent trigger bill," since he blew past several facts himself.

Romano failed to mention a school must receive consecutive failing grades before any action can be taken. After a school receives its first F, the district has the opportunity to raise the school's grade to a low D. This motivates the district to move staff and resources to the failing school accordingly.

If a school does fail, that district should move heaven and earth to prevent the school from receiving a second F. The bill's ultimate goal is to draw attention to our highest-need schools and motivate districts to eliminate circumstances under which a trigger would be pulled in the first place.

The bill also prevents schools from assigning a child two ineffective teachers in a row. When a child learns from an underperforming teacher year after year, it can be devastating to his or her future, another well-researched fact Romano blew past.

There are three traditional Florida public schools with consecutive failing grades, one being Melrose Elementary in Pinellas County. Last year, superintendent John Stewart expressed frustration with trying to move ineffective teachers out of Melrose and other low-performing schools.

This refusal to accept low-quality teachers is why unions so vehemently oppose the bill. The mythical "mass conversion to charter schools" is a red herring used to protect the job security of their lowest-performing teachers.

As Stewart was quoted as saying in your newspaper previously: "I think it's time to step outside the bargaining agreement and say, 'Cease and desist, these six schools are going to get the kind of attention they need.' " Amen.

Carlos Alfonso, board of directors, Foundation for Florida's Future; past chairman, University of Florida Board of Trustees, Tampa

Two explosions rock race's end | April 16

Boston's proud tradition

I confess that I could not even comprehend the horror of 9/11. Its magnitude was beyond me. But this native Bostonian fully comprehends 4/15.

Having grown up in Boston and adjacent Brookline, I have so many happy memories of Marathon days with my dad and with friends. I lived just blocks from the route, and my dad's drugstore was one block from the course near Kenmore Square and Fenway Park, where the runners drew close to the finish line.

In the 1950s, I remember cheering on Johnny A. "the Elder" Kelley, who'd won the race in 1935 and '45, and Johnny J. "the Younger" Kelley, a Connecticut schoolteacher whose 1957 victory was the only other one by an American until 1968. But Finns, Japanese and leaders of the pack from other lands also drew admiring encouragement and applause.

This now 22-year Florida resident feels that Monday's horrendous deed could not have targeted a more joyous day, a prouder tradition, a more vibrant city.

Ron Bitten, St. Pete Beach

A pressure-cooker bomb | April 17

Part of the problem

You never cease to amaze me with some of the things you print. So we all have to know how to make a pressure-cooker bomb? Seems you are part of the problem when you openly advertise how easy it is to do harm to a great many. Whose side are you on, anyway?

Shirley Lawrence, Spring Hill

Medical consumers shopping around April 15

Professional judgments

As a family doctor who has practiced in St. Petersburg for the past 33 years, I was concerned with the implied recommendation of this article: that injured or sick people should order their own diagnostic tests to save money.

Do they have the training and experience to make a diagnosis? Often times, the causes and best treatments for illnesses and injuries are not intuitive, no matter how smart you are. It takes years of experience to make accurate diagnoses and recommend the best treatments.

At my office (like many in our city), we see many uninsured patients and spend a lot of time finding the cheapest appropriate diagnostic tests and treatments for them. We work hard on behalf of our patients to give them the best value. So when you are sick or injured, consider going to your primary care doctor first for the best care.

Bruce Day, M.D., St. Petersburg

Times' Nickens and Ruth win Pulitzer for editorials | April 16

Holding officials to account

Congratulations to Tim Nickens and Daniel Ruth for winning the Pulitzer Prize. It was well deserved for writing that reached far enough to hold local elected officials accountable at the ballot box. As a mother with a mouth full of metal fillings and children who have cavity-free checkups, I thank you.

Dan is much too modest. He combines hilarity with the courage to expose all the corruption and abuse of power — from celebrities to presidents, governors, U.S. and state legislators, county commissioners and all local elected officials — that other writers value as sources too much to criticize.

His integrity and objectivity was shown to me when he refused my Facebook friend request years ago. Fortunately for me, the rest of my journalist "friends" have access to my political opinions on Facebook every day. But Dan does the right thing, even when it makes getting information more difficult. I respect him for that and look forward to being his friend when one of us retires or loses an election.

Keep up the good work, especially in Hillsborough County, where elected officials are also known to pose threats to the general health, safety and welfare.

Mary Mulhern, Tampa City Council, District 2, Tampa

For science and health

On behalf of the Pew Children's Dental Campaign — a project of the Pew Charitable Trusts — I want to congratulate Tim Nickens and Daniel Ruth on the Pulitzer Prize that the Tampa Bay Times has just received. Dental health advocates in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area kept us informed of developments, and our Pew team regularly read all of the editorials you produced on the fluoridation issue. They were well written and accurately reflected the scientific evidence on oral health and community water fluoridation — two qualities which, of course, distinguish them from the messages of fluoridation opponents.

Your newspaper's efforts over the past two years were commendable — both on the editorial and reporting ends — and they make me pause to think of what might have happened in Pinellas County were it not for the Times' courage and willingness to take on this issue.

Matt Jacob, Washington

Continuing excellence

I moved to Tampa over 50 years ago and immediately subscribed to the local newspaper, the Tampa Tribune. As I aged and my political leanings became more important to me, from time to time I would buy a copy of the St. Petersburg Times and found it to be a voice much more in tune with both my wife and me.

In 2008 I finally gave up on the Tribune. The last straw was when they laid off Dan Ruth, the only shining star in that paper. I then subscribed to the St. Petersburg Times, now the Tampa Bay Times, a name more befitting the area served.

My first communication was to send a letter to the editor suggesting that they try to hire Mr. Ruth, who would be an excellent addition to their staff. I was surprised to see that my wish was fulfilled and it is now a pleasure to congratulate both the Tampa Bay Times on its continuing excellence and the Pulitzer organization for their recent award, aptly bestowed upon Dan Ruth and Tim Nickens for their editorial writing.

James Teske, Tampa

A great honor

I have truly enjoyed reading Daniel Ruth's columns over the years. Although I do not always agree with his opinions, they are always well thought out. Hats off to Daniel for his winning of a prestigious Pulitzer Prize. What a great honor for a great journalist. I am glad that the Tampa Bay Times was wise enough to keep his column alive in the bay area.

Kirk Faryniasz, Riverview

Power of the pen

We are very fortunate to live in an area that receives the best newspaper in the state. Thanks to Tim Nickens and Daniel Ruth for their outstanding work and winning another Pulitzer for the Times. Because of their investigative work, our children now have fluoride back in their water to protect against cavities. They prove, again, the power of the pen!

Thanks Tim and Daniel for your wonderful work.

Margaret Hyde, Clearwater

Rubio's full-court press | April 15

Put Americans first

When I read about Sen. Marco Rubio's amnesty plan for illegals, I couldn't help but wonder who his plan is "fair and compassionate" toward. Is it the 11 million Americans who are out of work? How about the 11 million legal workers whose jobs the illegals are doing? Or how about the American soldiers who are returning home to find they don't have jobs but illegals do?

If he wants to be fair and compassionate, then maybe he should put his own countrymen first.

Frank Pedigo, St. Petersburg