Board Not Involved in Cook Review
The facts and inferences as presented by you in your June 29 editorial "Why Laurie Cook?" are, regrettably, both inaccurate and misleading. At this time I have made no decision on the case of Northeast teacher Laurie Cook.
I have received the findings and recommendations of an internal investigation conducted by staff, as have Ms. Cook and her attorney, Christina Gutierrez. Under normal circumstances, I would make an independent decision based on those findings. However, in this case, Ms. Gutierrez has requested and been granted an extension of time in which to respond to the report's findings. Having received no response nor been given the opportunity to make a decision on this matter, I can assure you that predictions on what that decision will be is pure speculation. . . . My decision will be based upon the findings of the internal report and Ms. Cook's response to those findings.
When a decision . . . has been made, I will convey in writing that decision and its rationale to Ms. Cook and her attorney. At that point, should my decision involve disciplinary action of any type, Ms. Cook could decide to appeal that decision to the Board of Education. It is key that the public understands that the board's role relates solely to the appeals process, not to the decision made by the superintendent. These procedures are well known to reporters covering eduction in Anne Arundel County, and have, in fact, been reviewed with those reporters (including The Sun's education reporter). . . .
Your editorial implies that a final decision has already been made in the Laurie Cook case, and that the board is guilty of reversing its earlier stated intent not to charge employees with failure to report suspected child abuse in the past. This simply is not true. At this point in time, the board is not even part of the process nor will it ever be unless the superintendent makes a decision which Ms. Cook wishes to appeal. . . .
Carol S. Parham
The writer is superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools.
I am writing in response to the letter entitled "In Appreciation of Volunteer Fire Fighters," which appeared June 12, authored by Roger Neal, the officer in charge of the Anne Arundel Volunteer Fire Department. He has made some very serious accusations, and I feel compelled to respond to them.
The accusation that firefighters would "be less interested in assisting individuals who criticize them in a negative manner" and that "we hope these criticizing individuals never need our assistance," or that "I hope firefighters don't know the addresses of those individuals," are not only irresponsible, but totally false.
I represent more than 570 professional firefighters and paramedics who take great offense at Mr. Neal's allegations. We are human and sometimes do make mistakes, but our commitment to the citizens we serve is always to provide the highest quality of service possible. The fire service, since its inception, has made that commitment to excellence, and we carry that forward with pride and determination. . . .
LeRoy A. Wilkison
The writer is president of Local 1563 of the International Association of Firefighters.
Government by the Pros
"There comes a time in politics when a man must rise above principle." How's that for candor? What about: "Ballot boxes are never stuffed, unless it's absolutely necessary"?
That kind of political morality makes the travails of modern politicians look small potatoes, yet it's an accurate reflection (by politicos Jimmy Walker of New York and John Fitzgerald of Boston) of the state of politics at the turn of the century. If you throw in the fact that the vote was withheld for reasons of gender and race, it's apparent that the "good old days" weren't ** so good after all.
As an historian accustomed to talking the long view of things, it's obvious that we are leaving the 20th Century a far more open and democratic society than when we entered it. But here's a conundrum: The more democratic government has gotten, the less confidence we seem to have in it.
Since 1958, a research project at the University of Michigan has been tracking our confidence in government by asking us if we trust the government in Washington to do right "just about always" or "most of the time." In other words, what degree of confidence do we have in our national government? At the end of last year the confidence index reached its lowest rating, 14 percent. (The highest confidence rating was 75 percent, recorded in 1964).
The Center for Local Issues, at Anne Arundel Community College, asked a similar "confidence" question for state government. The good news -- the confidence index was twice as high for our General Assembly. The bad news? Seventy percent don't have confidence.
What's going on here?
Perhaps there's an insight in the fall of House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski. Not the allegations of trading stamps for money at the House Post Office or the ghost employees! I'm talking about the fact of a 32-year career in the House of Representatives. Thirty-two years! That's a gold watch and retirement party for most of us. Let's face the truth: A 90 percent re-election rate for incumbents makes the Rostenkowskis of politics possible.
Here's the curious thing: As this century comes to an end, we find ourselves governed by professional politicians -- by choice. That's odd behavior because the people who designed our citizen legislatures saw them as "do it yourself" projects.
Has politics become so complex in the last decade of the 20th century that only professionals can understand it? If so, that's where it gets "curiouser and curiouser," as Alice observed of Wonderland, because our professional legislators seem constantly "gridlocked," incapable of even making the streets safe. . . . At this rate, we would be better off with everyday citizens like us running the government, the way the Founding Fathers intended. Now there's a curious thought after the Fourth of July.
The writer is a professor of history and assistant dean for social sciences at Anne Arundel Community College.