Classroom ReformAfter a year of bashing teachers...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Classroom Reform

After a year of bashing teachers and unions, now The Sun has decided that teachers unions are obstructionists to educational reform rather than educators.

What a short memory The Sun has. It was the Baltimore Teachers Union that led the education reform movement in Baltimore City with its restructured schools program. Those 14 restructured schools have paved the way for school-based management that has been implemented at the remaining schools in the system.

In addition, the BTU sits on committees that look at restructuring schools to better serve our students, like the Enterprise School concept. Not only do we participate in these committees, the BTU has waived certain contractual rights to allow schools and their staff the freedom to pursue educational reforms that will improve schools. Does this sound like an organization that blocks reform?

The Sun editorial staff thinks that teachers should only concern themselves with books and classrooms, like they think autoworkers should only concern themselves with cars. What The Sun fails to realize is that reform affects the working conditions of the classroom. If we restructure schools, the classroom teacher is the catalyst that makes that change possible. Without the expertise of the classroom teacher, what is planned in the isolation of the board rooms will not succeed.

While the BTU might not always agree 100 percent with reforms that are discussed, our position of remaining open and being willing to negotiate has placed the BTU in a strategic position to forge new alliances and create an atmosphere of excellence for both students and staff.

And perhaps The Sun, which thinks automobile workers should stick with mindless work on the assembly line, doesn't know about the Saturn plant in Tennessee that has developed a unique partnership between workers and management that has been hailed as a success and a model for other auto plants around the country.

Front-line workers have creativity and vision and want the consumer (whether student or car owner) to be satisfied, and they want to play a role in creating that satisfaction. Obviously, The Sun thinks that union members should be seen and not heard.

Irene B. Dandridge

Baltimore

The writer is the president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

Dark Ages

As a parent of a daughter with multiple handicaps, I must respond to the June 14 column by Michael K. Burns, "Short-Changing Children in the Name of Inclusion." Short-sighted people like Mr. Burns keep us in the Dark Ages in respect to education of the handicapped.

After years of fighting the Baltimore County public school system to have our daughter mainstreamed, we were able to see her graduate from Towson High School June 9.

Her handicaps are complex and certainly not easy to overcome. She is moderately retarded and suffers from a bipolar affective disorder with obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

The school staff at her segregated school said that it would never work for her to be at Towson High. It did work and it worked well, and it was worth the fight.

It was not easy. Inclusion is needed to prepare our children for integrated lives. It is wrong to place a child in a segregated school on the outskirts of town and then at the age of 21 place her in a society that hasn't known who she is.

Our daughter has become much more independent as a result of attending Towson High; she graduated a year earlier than usual, she is in her own apartment at the age of 20 with the support services of the Kennedy-Krieger Institute, is ready to be employed and is more ready for independence than if she had been at her segregated school. To graduate from Towson High was her dream come true.

It is time to engender a society that allows all people a reasonable opportunity to live, work, and play with brothers, sisters, friends, and neighbors.

Nancy Warner

Towson

Pray at Home

I, too, believe in prayer and the power of prayer, but if those who are insistent upon prayer in schools are that concerned, they should have prayers with their children at home every morning and then there would be no need to subject other peoples' children to what they believe.

Remember, these are taxpayers also and are paying for the education of their children.

Another solution is to send children to religious schools.

I believe the state of the nation would improve dramatically if children witnessed prayer or ethical behavior and choices in their own home and from their parents and associates.

The only reason someone would want prayer in schools is to influence other children with his beliefs whether their parents want it or not.

Christine Satterwhite

Baltimore

Wildlands

Thanks to Douglas Birch for his article (June 16) on the vanishing natural heritage of Maryland. Marylanders need to be made aware of this terrible problem. But, they also need to know about solutions.

The not-widely-known Maryland Wildlands Preservation System is just such a solution. For almost 20 years, 14,400 acres of special habitats have been designated as wildlands. These wildlands include such areas as an Appalachian mountaintop ridge in Garrett County, land along the Potomac bends of the ridge and valley, a stand of "old growth" woods and Miocene fossil cliffs in the coastal plains, and cypress swamp forests on the Eastern Shore.

Wildlands serve many purposes beside protection from intensive management or development. They also are an educational, scientific and non-aggressive recreational resource, and they simply serve as a place for escape from the urban rat-race to recharge one's batteries.

The designated wildlands within the system are a good beginning, but the program needs to be expanded greatly to include other special habitats if Maryland is to retain or recover its natural landscape, "the way it was."

An expanded wildlands system depends upon an informed and concerned citizenry, willing to let elected officials and natural resources administrators know of their support.

Ajax Eastman

Baltimore

The writer is co-chairman, Maryland Wildlands Committee.

Out of the Cave

C. R. Jones expresses displeasure that supporters of the Clinton administration repeatedly point to the 12 years of the Reagan-Bush administration as a time of "evils" (letter, June 14).

He mentions high interest rates and inflation of the Carter years as proof that what came before Ronald Reagan was much worse than anything occurring during the Reagan-Bush years, and also that the 20 million "good, solid jobs" that were created during those years would probably be lost during the Clinton administration.

I'd like to welcome Mr. Jones out of the cave he's obviously been hiding in by pointing out to him that the largest threat to our economy that exists right now is a $300 billion annual budget deficit, most of which was created -- guess when? -- during the 12 years of the Reagan-Bush era.

The proposed Clinton budget is the first serious effort since those 12 abysmal years began toward the responsible goal of bringing that deficit down.

During the Reagan-Bush era, millions of high-wage, high-skill blue collar jobs were lost, many of them in industries like the automotive.

The "20 million good solid jobs" that Mr. Jones referred to were mostly low-wage, low-skill, service-industry jobs at places like McDonald's and Taco Bell.

During the Eighties, wealthy foreign lobbyists and corporate heads used their influences with Mr. Reagan, George Bush and others in their administrations to relax regulations, allowing them to move U.S. plants to foreign countries, where labor was dirt cheap and things like environmental regulations are non-existent.

These lobbyists and corporate heads grew ghoulishly wealthy while millions of blue- (and some white-) collar workers in America lost their jobs. The elimination of these jobs was one cause of the recent recession.

Mr. Jones pillories former President Jimmy Carter for his energy policy, one component of which was to encourage Americans to conserve energy (he does this with some exaggeration: Mr. Carter never recommended that we use "one electric light at a time").

I considered this to be quite responsible on Mr. Carter's part. Mr. Jones, however, in taking what appears to be an attitude representative of most Republicans and conservatives, apparently believes that, as an American, he has a birthright to use (and waste) as much of anything he can get his hands on, whenever he wants.

The facts are that many things were done wrong in the 12 years of the Reagan-Bush era. If Mr. Carter's term had been extended, as it should have, many of those wrong things wouldn't have been done.

But they were, and it is now up to President Clinton to deal with the mess.

Raymond P. Frankewich

Columbia

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