The Baltimore Sun

School leadership starts at the top

I've taught in Baltimore County since 1976, and I can't get over how schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston always seems to get a free pass from the community and media. I'm guessing this is because his predecessor was such an easy target and made so many mistakes. So many people in Baltimore County are just glad to have a relatively invisible school leader.

Now Mr. Hairston is noting the huge gaps in the performance of some high schools, and blaming poor school leadership ("Quality gap in school faulted," Sept. 13).

But where does the leadership buck stop?

Who is in charge of placing leaders in position in those schools?

Mr. Hairston evades his responsibility by suggesting that teachers can be selective about where they teach (which is not true) and saying that it's "unfortunate" that "some teachers choose not to teach in certain schools."

As a former vice president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, I know the teachers' contract. Mr. Hairston and his subordinates have the ability to place any teacher in any position, in any school, at any time.

It's the courage that may be lacking.

Ken Shapiro


According to Baltimore County schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston, the reason for the disparity in the level and quality of education in our high schools is "a lack of leadership at some schools."

But isn't it the superintendent's responsibility to provide quality leadership to our schools?

Margaret V. DeBoy


The writer is a retired Baltimore County teacher.

Listen to the Iraqis who want us out

As a concerned and informed citizen, I listened with mounting interest to President Bush's recent televised address to the nation, and also to the congressional testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker during this past week ("Bush sees success in Iraq," Sept. 14).

I was disappointed but not surprised to hear all three of these gentlemen overstate the good news, and understate the bad news, that has come out of Iraq since the U.S. troop surge was instigated last spring.

However, none of them mentioned the estimated hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who have died since our invasion of 2003, even in passing.

Further, none of the three addressed the recent poll conducted by major news organizations that concluded that 70 percent of Iraqis think their lives are worse since the surge began and that about half of all Iraqis want the occupying forces to withdraw from Iraq immediately.

My question to Mr. Bush, Mr. Crocker and General Petraeus is this: If we are supposed to be fighting this war to help the Iraqi people, why ignore the opinions, beliefs and wishes of the Iraqi people who want us to leave their country as soon as possible, and who think their lives are worse because of our involvement?

Herman Meyer


Petraeus protects Bush's failed policy

The Sun's article "Petraeus gives cover to Bush" (Sept. 12) quotes Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution as saying Gen. David Petraeus' "demeanor" and his "chest of medals really bought all the time that George W. Bush needs right now."

So that's the most important thing Mr. Hess saw to comment on - the general's "demeanor" and "chest of medals"?

What about substance? What about the general's analysis? What about reasoned discussion and clear answers based on facts?

It was this administration's chest-thumping, fear-mongering and playing loose with false and incomplete information that led us into this war.

The continuation of those tactics keeps us mired in this war.

General Petraeus' testimony did nothing more than play to Mr. Bush's foregone conclusion - to largely stay the course until the next president arrives.

George H. Falter III


Offering more help to disabled parents

The death of 7-week-old Seth highlights the challenges faced by families and service providers who work with parents who have intellectual disabilities ("Baby death spotlights services to disabled," Sept. 5).

About 120,000 children are born to parents with intellectual disabilities each year in the U.S., yet only 35 to 40 often underfunded programs exist to help these parents.

The recent tragedy highlights a worst-case scenario. But it is critically important that we don't allow it to color our view of all parents with intellectual disabilities.

While the article may have increased awareness that more services and research are needed to help parents with intellectual disabilities, it failed to recognize that parents with intellectual disabilities have far more successes than failures.

In Baltimore, for instance, the Growing Together supported-parenting program run by a group called PACT has helped hundreds of parents over the last 20 years to become loving, responsible caregivers for their children.

The baby Seth tragedy highlights the need for additional funding and investigation into strategies for working more effectively with parents who have cognitive limitations.

Bernadette Irwin


The writer is program director for the Growing Together supported-parenting program.

Howard health plan will bust the budget

The initiative to extend health care to all in Howard County is a budget-buster waiting to happen ("Howard seeking care for all," Sept. 13). I'm afraid this program will make Howard become a magnet for the uninsured in Maryland and surrounding states.

This idea is very noble, and some day I wish we all could have health insurance. It is a very basic human right in a society such as ours.

But this issue has to be dealt with on a national level.

We cannot have socialist islands in a sea of capitalism and expect businesses on those islands to be able to compete.

Mark Potler


Campaign tactics seem to repel voters

My household received many large political advertisements in the mail and our phone hardly stopped ringing with canned messages from all the political candidates running for office in the city in the run-up to Tuesday's election.

I know there have been efforts to pass legislation to stop such annoying calls, and I hope that in the future we will be able to ban them.

But I understand that not even one-third of registered Baltimore voters bothered to come out to the polls on Tuesday ("City's voter turnout is lackluster at 28%," Sept. 12).

So all these politicians wasted their money on those calls and cards, and I hope they learned their lessons.

I personally appreciated meeting and talking with some of the candidates who came to my door or joined panel discussions held at libraries and other public places.

I think political candidates could find much better ways to use their time, rather than their money, to run for office.

Patricia Elliott


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