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Letters from the Issue of January 25, 2007

Learn your lesson: Thanks for the objective and comprehensive coverage in Rob Jordan's "The Missionary" (January 4). The issues, efforts to address them, and challenges to addressing them were well represented.

I would like to comment on teacher Judy Brown's statement, "If your scores aren't good, you got to go."


"The Missionary"

Her comments summarize informally the unspoken end result of policies under recent state and district leadership: Education is reduced to skill in bubbling correct-sounding answers on a defined series of exercises referred to as an achievement test. As such, a teacher whose "scores aren't good [has] got to go."

Forget open-ended, thought-provoking questions that don't have easy or definite answers. Forget the art — of words, colors, chemicals, or angles (yes, art exists beyond art class).

Of course, if you aren't producing, move on, or be moved on (by those responsible for overseeing quality). If only there were a mechanism that functioned in the school system to attract, retain, and groom high-quality, professional classroom educators. A few problems with current quality control:

1. The hopelessness and foolishness of imagining that nonproducing teachers can be replaced with higher-quality and committed educators without the district redesigning its budgetary priorities to shift sufficient spending back to the classroom. The district spends a mere 61 percent of its budget in the classroom, while a nationwide movement is calling for a minimum of 65 percent — and in some places, upward of 75 percent. A good portion of this is needed for salary, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools just won't prioritize this.

Consequently MDCPS cannot compete with the majority of school systems in the nation for the limited number of high-quality educators available.

2. Walk through Little Haiti or other low-income, immigrant neighborhoods. Spend some time in the homes of recent immigrants from the poorest nations in the hemisphere. Then try to understand how these kids and their families can be expected to receive, and respond to, the same levels of education as their peers from other locales throughout the state. Current budgeting and remuneration practices do not account for the kind of "missionary" commitment such conditions demand.

3. As for the observation that many teachers, parents, and administrators make: "If teachers want more pay, they should act more professionally" or "intelligently." This begs the question: Why is our teacher force often characterized as less than professional, even less than intelligent? Are not our leaders ultimately responsible for this? What are they going to do about it? Leaders don't make excuses for problems. They solve them.

Thanks for the (painfully) detailed reporting and photography.

Shawn Beightol
North Bay Village

Swamp Shop

Sounds like a nice place to get bogged down: Regarding Francisco Alvarado's "Renaissance Swamp Man" (January 18): I met Lucky Cole a couple of years ago. While conducting botanical research on the preserve, a colleague and I drove past the front of his property and saw a sign for free junk. Naturally we were curious, because there aren't very many folks living along Loop Road anymore, and we stopped to look at the junk.

While perusing the items — including old hardened leather boots and various mismatched objects — I heard a voice from over the gate: "I have some rope, if you wish to tie down that deer stand." I looked up and saw there was a freestanding deer stand among the knickknacks. Fortunately I was driving a pickup truck, and took Lucky up on his offer. He then cordially invited me and my friend to come inside and have a cold one. We said yes, and he gave me the grand tour, including showing me his portfolio. I was quite impressed and very glad to see that a certain part of South Florida was still around. Lucky is one of the most genuine and friendly people I have met, and I will always remember his hospitality. Now the deer stand resides in my back yard in Kendall as a reminder of that moment. It makes me happy — and my neighbors nervous.

Steve Woodmansee

Wise Up

Give the mayor the might: Regarding Francisco Alvarado's "A Question of Mayoral Might" (January 18): I cannot believe that someone who publishes one of the most informative newspapers in Miami-Dade could pretend to be so ignorant of the corruption, cronyism, theft, traffic of influence, et cetera, that has been going on in the Miami-Dade County Commission for so long, and with no end in sight.

Chuck, it is very simple: Either you support all the gross corruption going on, or you support honesty, integrity, and transparency — unless you have a specific agenda tied in to the county commission. I suggest you don't say again that Mayor Alvarez is trying to put the county charter on its head. It doesn't sound real because it is a lie!

Just in case you don't read the local news media, the political scandals are almost weekly happenings. I guess you support a corrupt government with a lot of checks and no balances. Next time, before writing, do your homework. All of Miami-Dade County knows what the commission is capable of doing. That is why we, the honest and hard-working residents, want a change, ASAP!

Vicente T. Rodriguez

Fidel's A-Goin'

Our woman's a-stayin': "Waiting for Him to Go" (January 4) by Our Woman in Havana was an excellent, excellent article. Good work.

Rima Niapolis
San Francisco, California


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