My son is in tenth grade at Miami Norland Senior High. As a believer in the education system, I took his reports of conditions at Norland with a grain of salt. So Ted B. Kissell's article ("Blackboard Bungle," April 8) was not only a shock to me, it jarred my memory. During a school visit, I personally witnessed an incident involving conduct unbecoming a principal.
While meeting with my son and his academic counselor in her office, a tall, thin, well-dressed man stood outside the open door and proceeded to bellow commands at a subordinate. Not only was the noise a disruption, but the arrogant, berating tone added tension to all who were present.
My significant other, who takes an active interest in my children's lives, rose from his chair, walked to the source of the interruption, and firmly requested that he take his conversation elsewhere as there was a conference in session. The man took two steps toward the main office and continued his harangue. My significant other closed the door, shutting out the noise and allowing us to concentrate on the issue at hand: my son's education. Hours later when my son came home, I asked him who that loud man was. "That's our principal, Mr. Williams," he said.
Because of Mr. Kissell's article, I have found out my son was assigned to Ms. Major's social studies class as an "at-risk" student. Like several of the students quoted in the article, my son is an average student (maybe a little below average), not at risk of dropping out. None of his progress reports or conferences with teachers has mentioned behavior problems of a disturbing nature.
Today he told me about the change from Ms. Major to Mr. Wilson. The students themselves weren't told as a group they were in an at-risk class until they returned from spring break. To replace a semicompetent English instructor with a detention supervisor who belongs in elementary schools is an insult not only to my son, but to all taxpayers in Miami-Dade County who will look at their children's social studies grade and wonder if it means anything. My son has been cheated out of a year's worth of learning in a display of bureaucratic loyalty, and I am disgusted by it.
The unexcused absences and tardiness on his report card he explained as something to do with "lockouts," which I did not fully understand at the time. Locking a classroom door -- refusing admission to a student regardless of reason or degree of tardiness -- was inconceivable to me. He continued racking up tardies and absences, as well as punishments for them, claiming there was insufficient time to cover the distance he had to walk, particularly after physical education. He claimed that by the time he was able to get to class, perhaps a minute or two late, the door was locked. I thought he was lying. Consequently not only am I angered by this ridiculous policy, which again cheats students out of learning opportunities through, often enough, no fault of their own, but now I have to apologize to my son. Late is late, but isn't it better for a student to get some of the classroom material rather than none?
One of my closest friends has been in the Miami-Dade school system for more than twenty years. After reading Mr. Kissell's article, I asked my long-time teacher friend if he was acquainted with Norland's principal. When I mentioned Carroll E. Williams's name, I was taken aback by the stories of Yahweh connections and other matters. Who cares what religion or fraternal organization Mr. Williams may belong to from week to week? Not I. That is, not until the inevitable happens and Mr. Williams's benefactors come a-callin'.
Incidents such as those at Norland and Killian High prove dramatically that in all of Miami-Dade County's public schools, the time bomb continues to tick ... tick ... tick.
Virginia Key: The Naked Truth
Kirk Nielsen's in-depth look at the racial history of Virginia Key Beach in his article "A Historic Dip" (April 8) was very informative. Many of us long-time residents weren't aware that Virginia Key was the first local blacks-only beach during our system of apartheid.
But as any long-time South Florida resident knows, Virginia Key, from the 1970s to the infamous takeover by the City of Miami in 1982, was best known for its nude beach. The reputation of Virginia Key as a nude beach was so entrenched that a decade after the city took it over and banned nude sunbathing, people were still going there and stripping.
Within a month of the January 1992 arrest of playwright Edward Albee for indecent exposure (he was sunbathing nude on the northeastern shore of Crandon Park, across Bear Cut from Virginia Key), the last arrests for nudity were made at the newly established clothing-optional section of Haulover Park Beach.
Although those arrests were an overreaction by law enforcement, the results were positive. The charges were later dropped, as the arrests were made within a "place set apart for nudity," in accordance with Florida state law. The county began to see the popularity of nude sunbathing and its benefit to the international tourist interest in South Florida, and began a cooperative venture that is now our very successful and unique clothing-optional beach.
I find it interesting that the histories of Virginia Key and Haulover are entwined in black civil rights and nude civil rights issues. For many years people enjoyed the freedom of not having to wear clothing at the beach on Virginia Key, but when the City of Miami took it over, their plans to develop it as a recreational area didn't accommodate nudist interests. This forced the local naturists, South Florida Free Beaches, on a decade-long quest for a clothing-optional beach. As the club's lawyer, Bob Korshun, mentioned in an April 1982 Miami Herald article on the closing of the nude beach at Virginia Key, "It's the civil-rights issue of the Eighties."
So add my voice to the preservationists' side. It would be quite appropriate to designate Virginia Key as a civil rights park, both for being the first official black beach and for being the first unofficial, but popular, nude beach in Miami-Dade County.
Mon Dieu! It's Only a Bistro
I have just finished reading Lee Klein's demolition job on the Riviera Brasserie ("Forget Paris," March 25) and can only conclude that he has totally lost his objectivity in reviewing dining establishments.
In this case he obviously expected champagne-quality food at beer prices. Even the most casual look at his comments makes one wonder if he didn't have a hidden agenda in writing his article. He totally missed the big picture in his evaluation.
If the French bread is great, who cares about the spread, even if it is the same one served by the vast majority of restaurants in Miami? I admit he knows his Velveeta, but it seems strange he didn't know that Swiss cheese melts when heated and becomes a little gooey.
While the salade Riviera didn't have enough snow crab to satisfy him, the salmon tartare was good, even if he didn't know how to eat it. I was impressed with his research on a real salade niçoise. I have eaten several hundred of them in Nice over the past 30 years and have never gotten the perfect Auguste Escoffier version. Mr. Klein forgot to mention if his was good or not. I suppose he was still grilling the waiter on its contents.
Shame on all that butter on his beautifully grilled salmon with accompaniments cooked to perfection! Was his pepper steak okay or did the placement of the carrot slices so upset him he just couldn't comment? I don't suppose we should even talk about the hamburger. In this day and age, who doesn't serve hand-formed burgers made from aged imported beef? While the cappuccino and tart were excellent, it seems the entire meal was ruined by the vanilla ice cream in an otherwise delicious dessert.
I found Mr. Klein's article to be far more suspicious than the Brasserie's menu. Someone doesn't want the competition, or the manager must have made him pay the bill. The food at the Brasserie is as good as you will find in Brickell Village, and at a more reasonable price.
Please keep Mr. Klein away from any other new, reasonably good restaurants. His exquisite palate should be reserved for Norman's or Christy's. Better yet, switch him to reviewing movies.
Robert C. Gilden