Mistake on contract shouldn't obscure city schools'...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Mistake on contract shouldn't obscure city schools' progress

The unfortunate incident in which a high-level city school system officer seems to have betrayed the public trust for personal gain should not be blown out of proportion ("No-bid contracts show city schools' lack of oversight," May 30).

After years of denigration, the Baltimore public schools are beginning to achieve excellence. In a recent series of articles, The Sun found that the city has a distribution of excellent, average and poor schools that is similar to that of other central Maryland jurisdictions.

More important, the outstanding gains in city student's scores on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills that were recently announced promise an unprecedented level of achievement.

If such progress is sustained, low-income city children will be equipped to enter the economy on an equal footing, instead of being condemned to marginality.

The city's new school board, appointed jointly by the city and state, deserves a major share of the credit for any optimism about the city schools. Its members have sacrificed their time unstintingly to turn around a failing system.

In the process, they concentrated more on academics than on setting up necessary checks and balances in the procurement system. But I trust they will fix the problem now that it has been revealed.

The loss of $1 million to possible corruption is unfortunate. But city schools had been wasting hundreds of millions of dollars each year by failing to teach.

Thousands of teachers and school administrators have struggled to turn around a desperate situation. Let's focus more on their positive accomplishments than on the growing pains of a new system.

Charlie Cooper

Baltimore

If city wants more funding, it must clean up its fiscal act

It seems that every other week The Sun reports yet another example of fiscal mismanagement by the city of Baltimore.

Over the past few months, The Sun has reported on cases involving Baltimore's schools, Department of Public Works and its housing authority.

Is it any wonder taxpayers in surrounding counties are fed up with the city requesting more and more money from the state each year?

It is a given that the counties and the city are dependent upon each other for future growth and prosperity.

But until the city cleans up its act by instituting proper financial controls and accountability, it should be too ashamed to ask Maryland for more money.

Ken Reott

Towson

Imposing grand expectations can discourage young readers

Elena-Lee Peddicord, a first-grader, read 1,640 books during the school year. Regardless of their complexity, that's an impressive accomplishment.

But the writer of the recent letter "Number of books read isn't what's most important" (May 28), does not seem to agree. She asked, "Were all the books first-grade level?"

Well, the girl was, after all, in the first grade. She is not expected to read beyond that level, although I suspect she does.

The writer then suggests the child should read "a few pithy books . . . requiring the need for a dictionary . . ."

Give the child a break: Don't turn her off reading with impossible expectations.

We sometimes forget that reading is fun and that if we want children to become readers, it must be an enjoyable and fun-filled pursuit.

I commend Elena-Lee Peddicord for her wonderful accomplishment. She is well on her way to a fascinating lifetime addiction and is one first-grader I would dearly love to meet; we could discuss books.

Carol Chesney Meyers

Towson

Even Helen Thomas can be replaced

In his column "UPI without Helen Thomas is no longer UPI" (Opinion

Commentary, May 21), Ronald E. Cohen quoted me as saying, "Everyone is dispensable."

It was a recycled, totally inaccurate quote from an article by Howard Kurtz piece in the Washington Post. The Post has since quoted my correction.

In an interview with Mr. Kurtz, I reminded him that Gen. Charles de Gaulle once said, "the graveyards of the world are full of indispensable people."

"No one is indispensable," was the exact quote, not "everyone is dispensable."

The nuance is critical.

Arnaud de Borchgrave

Washington

The writer is president and CEO of United Press International.

Linda Tripp: a heroine who stood up to the president . . .

Michael Olesker's comments about Linda Tripp's "revolting" actions leading to presidential impeachment were misguided. Those actions would not have been possible or necessary without the truly revolting actions of our president with Monica Lewinsky.

His revolting actions were followed in kind by the Democrats in Congress who failed to remove the impeached office holder and prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli, who sought to prosecute Ms. Tripp.

How can Mr. Olesker say those tapes were "no one's business"? Because of their content, they were everyone's business. Mr. Clinton gave up his privacy when he took his oath of office, although it appears that he didn't understand very much of that oath to begin with.

I applaud Ms. Tripp's courage. It's a shame that Mr. Clinton was unable to display similar fortitude when he had the opportunity to resign.

It's also a shame Congress did not display more courage by removing Mr. Clinton and saving us further embarrassment.

John Polek

Essex

What Linda Tripp did was illegal, but it was not immoral.

What Ms. Tripp did was help put a face of truth on President Clinton's immoral, lying behavior in the White House.

In my book, she's a heroine.

Paul M. Schaefer

Baltimore

. . . or a lawbreaker and a scoundrel?

Michael Olesker's column on Linda Tripp hit the nail right on the head ("Beating wiretap charge is hollow victory for Tripp," May 28).

Ms. Tripp was and is guilty of breaking the law, despite the judge's strange ruling.

And I wonder, if it was so easy for her to sell out a friend, should Ms. Tripp be working at the Pentagon?

Ingeborg B. Weinberger

Baltimore

In his column on Linda Tripp, Michael Olesker wrote: "Tripp wrapped herself in the flag instead of admitting the truth."

This evokes an aphorism coined by Samuel Johnson in 1775: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

Leo Bretholz

Baltimore

Other counties, developers should aid Hippodrome, too

The state wants Baltimore County to provide more money to renovate the Hippodrome because people in the county will use it ("County won't accede to Rawlings, raise Hippodrome funding," May 23).

However, I didn't see how much money Anne Arundel, Howard and Harford counties were requested to provide.

Also, how much will the developers, operators and owners of the new theater be required to provide?

After all, the developers, operators and owners will be ones making a profit from the new theater, not the patrons.

Marie Lewis

Baltimore

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