Teachers union seeks healthy conditions for teaching...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Teachers union seeks healthy conditions for teaching and learning

The Sun's editorial "Union must recognize school system's needs" (Aug. 26) criticizes Baltimore teachers for the current impasse in contract negotiations with the city schools.

Baltimore teachers are acutely aware of the needs in our schools. They know that good teachers are essential to good schools and that Baltimore City schools are struggling to attract and retain highly qualified teachers.

How does the new Board of School Commissioners expect to get and keep good teachers by offering them extra duties, lower pay than surrounding districts and higher out-of-pocket costs for basic health benefits?

Our goal in the current negotiations is to create good conditions for teaching and learning in Baltimore schools.

Our proposals would enhance teachers' skills, ensure they are treated as professionals and make Baltimore schools competitive with other school districts.

The Sun supports the administration's desire to require teachers to "volunteer" their time and not be compensated for required professional development.

We support high-quality professional development programs. And we believe good professional development is integral to our day-to-day work, not an add-on.

As in other area school systems, it should be part of the school day -- not "forced charity" on the part of teachers.

Many former and prospective Baltimore City teachers have been lured to surrounding school systems, where conditions are more "teacher friendly." Yet many student achievement indicators have gone up in Baltimore schools.

Much work remains, and the Baltimore Teachers Union will stand firm for proposals that will continue -- not undermine -- this progress.

Marietta English, Baltimore

The writer is president of the teacher chapter of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

City's test scores show little progress for schools

Looking over city schools' latest results from the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills ("Gains slight in city reading tests," Aug. 25), I noticed several things.

Very few schools are at or above the national average (scoring more than 50 in math or reading).

The scores are awful -- the average change for all Baltimore elementary schools was plus 1.78 percent in reading. For math scores, we had an average decline of 2.87 percent.

Despite the dramatic improvement the article noted at Thomas Johnson Elementary School, many schools continue to be below the national average. Many showed a decline in scores for one or more grades or subjects.

For example, Hazelwood Elementary's reading scores for 5th grade declined 27 percent, and Sharp-Ledenhall's 5th grade math scores declined 44 percent.

It is good to mention that improvements have occurred at some city schools, but much work remains for all of us.

When I taught in the city schools, I was constantly amazed on parents' nights to see only 10 percent of parents show up -- and invariably those were the parents of the gifted or motivated students.

Please get involved -- volunteer, mentor, participate in PTA meetings, do whatever it takes -- and don't give up the fight to improve Baltimore's schools.

Our future depends on it.

C. T. Johnson, Baltimore

Same-sex education lets kids just be themselves

If my own 17 years of middle and high school teaching had not shown me differently, I would agree with Linda Chavez' assertion that exclusively female classes do not belong in today's world ("Separate but equal schooling for men," Opinion Commentary, Aug. 20).

As it is, I'm not sure that the same standards for all people, all the time, always provides the best opportunity for growth.

From 1988 to 1997 I taught at the girls-only Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore. I found its girls consistently more focused, more curious, more willing to speak out and take on responsibilities outside the classroom than girls I had taught previously (and since) in co-ed schools.

However, when placed in co-ed situations, these girls would clam up, become more passive and yield the floor to boys.

In co-ed situations, girls spend most of their time being conscious that they are girls, while in single-sex situations they are more free to just be themselves.

I further suspect that, just as girls act more naturally when the pressure of the opposite sex is removed, so do boys.

Bill Nelson, Dagsboro, Del.

County's waterfront tired of being 'dumped on'

May I point out an oversight in the letter from George O'Donnell and the Queen Anne's County commissioners, "A needed step back on dredge dumping" (Aug. 25)?

In Mr. O'Donnell's elation over successfully delaying the Maryland Port Administration's plans for open-bay dumping of dredge spoils, he graciously thanked many people.

But Mr. O'Donnell forgot to thank Baltimore County, which may just be his greatest ally.

If not for the growing mountain of dredge spoils called Hart-Miller Island off Baltimore County, Mr. O'Donnell and his cohorts would have had this dredge spoil challenge to deal with long ago.

The residents of Baltimore County's waterfront have long opposed being "dumped on," but our concerns have been overruled by political posturing.

K. Clay, Baltimore

Sun must stop confusing 'sedans' with 'taxicabs'

The Sun's article concerning the Rosedale Sedan Service vehicle involved in the fatal accident at Broadway and Fayette streets referred to the vehicle as a "taxicab" and to the driver as a "taxicab driver" at least seven times ("One dies, 4 hurt in truck-taxi collision," Aug. 24).

The vehicle involved was a sedan, not a licensed taxicab. If it was operating as a taxicab, it was doing so illegally.

Taxicabs are closely regulated by the Public Service Commission as to the age and mechanical condition of the vehicles.

Sedan services may use any vehicle, often an ex-taxicab that was retired by law because of age or mechanical condition.

Taxicab owners also have a much larger investment in their vehicles because they have to purchase a taxicab permit. They are thus more inclined to protect it with safer drivers and better equipment.

This is the fourth major accident involving a sedan service in a little more than two years. The first two resulted in multiple deaths. This one was also fatal.

In the same period of time, I know of no similar accidents involving a taxicab, even though taxicabs far outnumber sedans.

For The Sun to continue to confuse the public by failing to differentiate between a sedan and a licensed taxicab casts an undeserved blemish on the taxicab industry.

Clay Seeley, Owings Mills

The writer is president of Reisterstown Cab Inc.

We rarely see articles about laborers, either

Thank you so much for Matt Witt's article, "We rarely see those who labor" (Aug. 22). We rarely see such articles.

We hear so much about how good the economy is -- and it is, for those who live on their investments. And the unemployment rate is extraordinarily low: as booming, merging corporations create below-living-wage jobs for the working class.

But the economy is not so good for my son-in-law, a nurse who has had his work hours cut back by a nonprofit hospital that can hire entering nurses cheaper.

John V. Chamberlain, Towson

Matt Witt's article, "We rarely see those who labor," was one of the nicest labor stories I can remember reading in many, many years.

In today's corporate world, too many men and women (both union and non-union) are forgotten for the sake of profit.

I hope The Sun's corporation sees fit to publish more of this type of article in the future -- so that both sides are more clearly heard.

Gerald D. Singleton, Columbia

The writer is business manager of Road Sprinkler Fitters Local Union No. 669.

Pub Date: 9/06/99

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