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The Baltimore Sun

Schools chief offers promise of reform

How refreshing to hear Baltimore's new schools chief discuss key, much-needed reforms, including recruiting excellent principals and giving them more autonomy, providing more individualized instruction to students, using incentives to fill hard-to-fill teaching positions and rewarding successful schools and classrooms ("Education chief talks of change," June 15).

Principals are one essential element in turning around the city's most troubled schools.

As a candidate for governor, Martin O'Malley promised to offer large bonuses to attract the best principals to the most challenging schools. He needs to move forward to fulfill that promise.

New schools CEO Andres Alonso can help by offering these principals the authority they need to become real instructional leaders.

State legislators have provided the city schools a huge infusion of funds through the Thornton legislation. Mr. Alonso now needs to maximize the impact of these resources by using them to pay for summer school and other individualized interventions that low-performing students need.

If Mr. Alonso can turn his words into action and results, the city schools will at long last have the leader they need.

As a community, we must help Mr. Alonso overcome the inertia and resistance his good ideas will face.

Matthew Joseph


The writer is executive director of Advocates for Children and Youth.

New leader can't fix ills of our schools

The Sun's editorial "A promising choice" (June 14) rests on the false premise that the problems of the Baltimore school system can be solved by one man.

While I don't doubt Andres Alonso's impressive credentials or his passion for teaching, I do doubt the ability of any human being to save Baltimore's schools.

The problem is not that the system is broken; the problem is that the system works all too well - by serving the political interests of the school board, the teachers union and the politicians.

Baltimore needs a free market in education, uninhibited by a bloated bureaucracy and partisan political games.

Such a system would encourage entrepreneurs to find the best and most cost-effective ways to educate Baltimore's children.

These schools would be at the mercy of the consumers - namely, the parents whose children attend the schools - and not the bureaucrats on the school board or power-hungry politicians.

As long as schools are controlled by governments, education will be a game played by politicians, for politicians.

Robert Bruce Carter


Success in school isn't a racial issue

For the life of me, I can't understand how The Sun can trumpet the success of one ethnic group of students over another when considering educational achievement ("Minority students gain," June 14).

I'm thrilled that minorities made significant advances in test scores.

But at the end of school day, aren't all children just students? Shouldn't they be compared to themselves, not to those from the entire city or the surrounding counties?

I think educational success or failure is predicated on one, simple ingredient: parental involvement.

As in other aspects of life, success in school is all about attitude and effort.

And parents - not the schools, educators or administrators - need to provide direction.

Tom Holmes


Don't allow BGE to keep raising rates

Why is it that Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. can get away with repeatedly raising the price of electricity ("Heat puts many in sweat over energy cost," June 9)?

What is going on in Annapolis? Where is the representation for the working people or the seniors on a fixed income?

The people of Maryland are being robbed of their hard-earned money.

Our representatives in Annapolis should be ashamed of themselves for not finding a way to stop this price increase.

Kristina Heatherman


Occupation remains at root of violence

As the editorial "Palestinians vs. Palestinians" (June 14) correctly states, "A peace process remains the only credible way to broker an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and forge a Palestinian state."

Unfortunately, Israel wants neither peace nor a unified Palestinian government, and has done everything possible to avoid serious negotiations on a separate Palestinian state.

Hamas was elected in January 2006 to take control of the Palestinian government in a fair and democratic election.

Israel and the United States immediately began an attempt to starve the Palestinians into rejecting Hamas by cutting off all aid to them, including Israel's holding back tariff fees that rightfully belong to the Palestinians.

Now the United States must immediately end its support of Israel's brutal and inhumane occupation and oppression of the Palestinians and some of their lands.

This occupation is the root cause of the violence in the Middle East.

Ray Gordon


Palestinians on path to self-destruction

Now that the Palestinians in Gaza are involved in all-out civil war and the members of Hamas and Fatah are killing each other in ever increasing numbers each day, how can anyone make the argument that Israel is responsible for the problems facing the Palestinians ("Palestinian government dissolves," June 15)?

It seems to me the Palestinians themselves are largely responsible for their problems - and left to their own devices, they will self-destruct.

Murray C. Spear


Partner for peace is now on West Bank

In the editorial "Palestinians vs. Palestinians" (June 14), the phrase "peace process" was characterized as "the only credible way to broker an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and forge a Palestinian state." However, the playing field has changed with Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians voted Hamas into power in Gaza last year, and now Hamas, still a recognized terrorist organization, will dictate the political and sociological future of Gaza's Palestinians.

The only viable peace partner Israel may have is Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization, which still controls the West Bank politically.

Perhaps the future will see peace between Israel and Fatah in the West Bank with a Palestinian state established and a true chance for prosperity for the Palestinians.

Unfortunately, the future looks bleak in Gaza.

The best that the Western world may be able to achieve is to leave Gaza and Hamas to their own destiny.

But when all is said and done, the current civil war resulting in Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip may be just the step needed to finally put a spark in the "peace process" that will ultimately lead to the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank.

Marc Okun


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