How to attract more nursesI have my...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

How to attract more nurses

I have my associate's degree with all of the nursing prerequisites, graduated with a 3.9 GPA and have a very strong desire to be in nursing school. So why am I not excited by the scholarship program local hospitals are offering ("Nurses are lured with scholarships," May 7)?

Because, although these scholarships will help current nursing students, they will do very little to attract new students.

The key to easing the nursing shortage is to get more students into the programs. This can be done by making two changes.

The colleges should change their system for determining financial need. The major flaw with the current method is that financial aid officials base their calculations of financial need on the student's earnings in the previous year. Calculations should be based on the earnings expected once a student is enrolled in a rigorous program such as nursing.

If calculations of need could factor in the wages lost while one is a full-time student, more students could qualify for financial aid and would have the opportunity to enter the nursing programs.

The six hospitals participating in this scholarship program are not actually increasing nursing school enrollment, because they are simply pre-hiring the nursing students who are already enrolled.

Thus the hospitals should change their focus to seek out students not yet in nursing clinicals.

I realize that putting money into first-year students is more risky. But this could be made safer by making the scholarship opportunities available only to those students who have shown academic excellence in pre-clinical coursework.

The scholarships could also be a form of sponsorship, in which the student would be obligated to work for the hospital for a specified period of time upon completion of the program.

If the student drops out of the program at any time or falls to fulfill his or her term of service, he or she would be required to pay back the money the hospital invested.

This would be a secure investment for the hospital and would lure more students into the nursing programs.

Melinda S. Whittemore, Relay

Musicians can't be so easily replaced

As a musician who has been with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for more than 20 years, I believe Tim Smith's glib comments at the end of his article "BSO takes steps to pick a new 'leader'" (May 8) were hurtful and are a terrible disservice to both BSO musicians and our community.

Fifty-five players in the Baltimore Symphony have 20 or more years of service; 23 of them have 30 or more years. Most of the musicians who become members of our orchestra make a life-long commitment not only to this orchestra but to the Baltimore community.

We buy our homes, raise our families, pay our taxes and share our talents through teaching and performances in Baltimore and the surrounding counties.

I think there is great value in the contributions of players who have these long careers and make a solid contribution to our ensemble. They have worked hard and endured years of sacrifice to bring the orchestra to the level of performance we all enjoy today.

Mr. Smith suggests that the possible removal of some musicians is worth any hurt feelings, heated tempers and anxieties suffered, as we work to achieve an even more valuable artistic product.

This, along with his closing statement that an uplifting performance will "assuage" the loss a musician feels when he or she no longer has a musical home, demonstrates a callousness on Mr. Smith's part that I'm sure my colleagues on stage and my friends in the audience do not share.

Mary Carroll Plaine, Baltimore

The writer is principal librarian for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Better schools are real issue

I read with great frustration The Sun's articles on efforts by Baltimore business leaders to find a position to enable James Apicella, the long-time partner of Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Carmen Russo, to move to the Baltimore area ("Job sought for schools chief's friend," April 25 and "High-powered help mobilized in job search," April 26).

Efforts such as those to help Mr. Apicella move to Baltimore are certainly not uncommon at high levels of the private sector. They are often the norm when bringing executives to a new venue.

The Baltimore Teachers Union (BTU) asks that both sides be given a full hearing before judgments are made. More than that, we ask The Sun and the public not to lose focus on the good work Ms. Russo has done in just 10 months in Baltimore.

She has brought stability, structure and a new energy to our school system. Her enthusiasm, commitment and insights are refreshing and encouraging. Her leadership and partnership with the BTU helped keep Westport Elementary-Middle School part of the Baltimore system after it was slated for reconstitution.

This union-management collaboration also led to the development of the new CEO district that enables us to collaboratively redesign the city's reconstitution-eligible schools, a remarkable feat that promises to bring support and research-based, proven practices to the classroom.

Furthermore, Ms. Russo recently won a $229,000 grant from the Open Society Institute to begin strategic planning and professional development for our nine comprehensive high schools.

I view The Sun's articles about Mr. Apicella as an attempt to discredit, embarrass and hinder Ms. Russo, just as she is beginning to make strides in helping some of our most needy children.

Why waste time speculating about Ms. Russo's personal life, when there is so much more at stake? Let's take a different road and put our energies into making a difference in the education of Baltimore's children.

Baltimore's children need us to keep our eyes on the prize of high achievement, and that's really the bottom line.

Sharon Y. Blake, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

SAT isn't the best measure of ability

We at the National Urban League were pleased we were included in Michael Hill's column "SAT still standard of merit, despite growing doubts" (May 5). However, we would like to correct the misimpression left by his statement that "The president of the National Urban League was joined by numerous business leaders in urging schools to cease relying on SAT scores lest they fail to educate the future leaders of America."

While the National Urban League did enlist business leaders from the nation's Fortune 1000 companies to endorse a letter addressed to college and university presidents, that letter did not ask them to cease relying on the SAT.

More precisely, it asked them to, "stop the over-reliance on college entrance exams and to use admissions tools that better measure the qualities that truly point to a student's potential for achieving future success within -- and beyond -- the classroom."

We released the sign-on letter in conjunction with the results of our survey, which asked 200 top executives of Fortune 1000 companies what the early indicators are for future leaders in business and how they gauge the signs of ability, drive, energy and ambition in young people that will result in business success.

More than 96 percent said standardized test scores are "not very important" to long-term success and, when asked how much weight should be attached to SAT scores in college admissions, 58 percent said "a lot of weight, but less than today's level" or "much less weight than today's levels."

It was based on the thought-provoking findings from our study that the National Urban League called upon the nation's colleges and universities to temper their obsession with SAT scores and place appropriate weight in the admissions process on real-world dimensions of merit.

Hugh B. Price, New York

The writer is president of the National Urban League.

Increasing taxes bad for city's future

How can Mayor Martin O'Malley be so foolish as to propose raising taxes in Baltimore?

When people are leaving the city because the cost of living here is already too high, the mayor should not increase this price in the hope that people will find the city more attractive.

This marketing strategy might work with designer handbags, but not for homeownership or business site selection.

Rather than catering to everyone's special interests, Mr. O'Malley should have cut expenditures much more heavily and lowered taxes. Mr. O'Malley's overwhelming victory in the 1999 election gave him a mandate to effectively deal with Baltimore's problems. He seems to missing this golden opportunity.

Mr. O'Malley's fiscal approach might stave off a deficit this year, but will only add to the downward spiral in the city's population.

David M. Buttner, Baltimore

According to Mayor Martin O'Malley we are faced with a choice: Either increase local income tax or "allow our city to be a place where toddlers are shot in their own homes by warring drug dealers" ("Taxes are in investment in Baltimore's future," Opinion

Commentary, May 7). I don't believe the choice is that stark.

Instead of raising taxes, the mayor needs to cut the bloated city work force, cut excessive spending, privatize services where possible and encourage businesses and industries to relocate to the city.

The mayor spins a tax increase into an "investment" to make it appear more palatable.

But when has a tax increase contributed to growth in the private job base or the population? This tax hike would have the opposite effect, and continue to drive city dwellers and businesses to the suburbs.

If we want to invest in making Baltimore a safer city, let's invest in some stricter sentencing and lock away the criminals.

Pete Bickford, Baltimore

Cynical response to energy woes

Faced with a situation he describes as a looming "energy crisis," President Bush has decided the nation's response should not include any action that would affect the American "way of life" ("More details emerge on Bush energy plan," May 14). Thus, he gives official voice to the recent historical trend that has changed Americans from citizens to consumers.

Apparently, the president believes that our sacred birthright as Americans includes the right to go to a movie theater cooled to 65 degrees and not a degree warmer.

And, the thousands of Native Americans living in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, who will lose their way of life to oil drilling, must understand that their loss is our only alternative.

On the other hand, changing the American way of life by improving gas mileage on American cars by two or three miles per gallon is apparently akin to tyranny.

Just weeks earlier, the president stated the United States would withdraw from the Kyoto treaty on global warming because it might affect our economy.

The United States, the richest nation in the world, obviously cannot allow any infringement on its fundamental right to have advertising signs lighted 24 hours a day. I am sure the people of island nations, which are disappearing under the rising seas resulting from global warming, will understand this position, since we Americans are the envy of the world.

My sarcasm is prompted by the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of Mr. Bush's energy policies. But equally disturbing is the cynical view of the electorate exhibited by the administration.

Those in power appear to believe that so long as Americans get tax refunds and have access to cheap consumer goods, they won't much care about anything else that goes on in the country or in the world.

Certainly our leaders won't ask the electorate to act as adults and make even the most insignificant or temporary sacrifice for the greater good of the country or the future of their children.

However, I may be giving too much credit to President Bush by considering the philosophical underpinnings of his energy policies.

Perhaps they are more simply explained as the expected reactions from a president and vice president who made their fortunes in the oil business.

Jim Emberger, Baltimore

Israel confronts a brutal enemy

The first time I visited Tekoa, the site of the murder of two Israeli teen-agers last week, was in 1979 ("Two Israeli boys killed on a hike in West Bank," May 10).

Then Tekoa sat on a barren hillside with a barbed-wire fence surrounding a few small homes. I was told of a young American who had recently moved to Tekoa and been given the job of guarding Herodian, a nearby archaeological site.

The morning of my visit that young American Jew had been found dead, stabbed more than 100 times. His name was David, and he had been in Israel for less than two weeks. He left behind a wife and two children.

The recent murders at Tekoa were shocking not only because of the tender years of the victims but because of the way they were killed. Death always accompanies war; these deaths were different. They help define the nature of the enemy Israel confronts, and it is no ordinary enemy.

Last fall, a similar incident occurred when two Israelis were beaten to death in a Ramallah jail. Then, too, the perpetrators dipped their hands in the blood of the slain and held them up triumphantly. Such behavior goes beyond the pale and touches a nerve.

The lesson is clear: When you are at war with a culture of such brutality, extraordinary steps may be necessary.

David Kross, Columbia

Question of the Month:

Kane's 'car door test' is no way to identify racists

As a 63-year-old black man born and raised in Harlem, New York, and living in Leonardtown, I found Gregory Kane's "car door test" extremely limited in searching out racists ("This Knick delivers with particularly foul shot," May 9).

If I see anyone standing at a corner where I stop, I make sure my doors are locked. The color, size, or gender of the person makes no difference. Criminals have no distinctive characteristics. They come from all groups of people.

Actually, I believe the real racists, with guns loaded, would keep their doors unlocked: Bang, bang -- "He tried to steal my car."

The test of people's character is measured over many years by people who know those being tested.

There are those who are racist. There are those who are racist and cautious. There are those of us who are just cautious. The "car door test" does not tell us who is who.

"Better to be safe than sorry," is a statement I first heard in Harlem from black adults. They were telling us to stay alert. Locking your car door is the alert thing to do.

Louis A. DeFreitas Sr., Leonardtown

With a new slogan, "The Greatest City in America" on its bus benches, Baltimore has abandoned former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's motto, "The City That Reads."

What slogan would you suggest for the city?

We are looking for 300 words or fewer; the deadline is May 21. Letters become the property of The Sun, which reserves the right to edit them. By submitting a letter, the author grants The Sun an irrevocable, non-exclusive right and license to use and republish the letter, in whole or in part, in all media and to authorize others to reprint it.

Letters should include your name and address, along with a day and evening telephone number. E-mail us: letters@baltsun.com; write us: Letters to the Editor, The Sun, P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore 21278-0001; fax us: 410-332-6977.

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