School FoodYour otherwise excellent editorial, ''School...


September 20, 1993

School Food

Your otherwise excellent editorial, ''School Food: Seeking New Ways to Satisfy Appetites,'' Aug. 29, omitted important facts about school cafeteria operations in Maryland. Only two weeks ago you published two letters which pointed out similar shortcomings in a news article on city school cafeterias.

Your editorial cites city ''difficulties'' in feeding young people nutritious and appealing lunches (the key to financial viability of food service programs). You again fail to mention the politically imposed hiring freeze which decimated the city's high school lunch program.

The Queen Anne's County superintendent attributes a private company's success in reducing annual losses in the county to ''management expertise'' and a ''customer-oriented operation.'' The article fails to mention the source of the county's previous management problems.

For years, neither the former Queen Anne's superintendent nor the school board ever made an issue of cost while a cook with no management expertise (the same superintendent's daughter) ran the program.

These guardians of the public trust then used the disastrous results to justify privatization, even though Queen Anne's food service employees, with the help of a state peer review team, were well on the road to financial stability. Interestingly, the dollars in ''profit'' returned to the schools were the same amount ''saved'' by cutting employee benefits.

Both the city and Queen Anne's County programs were undermined by the specific policy decisions of school and political ''leaders.'' Your omissions focus blame on the victims, the school cafeteria employees themselves, who have no say in how programs are run.

The public would be better served by more coverage of public officials' failure to do their jobs -- and the looting of the public treasury that results.

For example, you have not reported on Mayor Kurt Schmoke's pocket veto of City Council legislation to monitor the city's half-billion dollars of private contracts. You did mention briefly a bid-rigging scheme by dairy companies in 20 states, including Maryland, to steal school funds by overcharging on milk supplied to school children. This might be a good place to start.

Gail S. Riley


The writer is president of the Maryland State Educational Services Council, NEA.

Needed Housing

Contrary to the opinions of letter writer Julie Smith, passage of City Council Bill 429 will grant the dreams and wishes of Baltimore City residents for sorely needed new and affordable housing.

Congratulations to the city's Department of Housing and Community Development for its creativity and frugality in spending less than $2 million to assist the builder with 102 new houses close to a park-like setting. With passage of the bill, a few city residents can look forward to first-time home ownership and the city can gain much needed increases to its tax base.

Ms. Smith is accurate in that Cylburn Arboretum's beauty and tranquility must be maintained. Its valuable old trees, its birds, flora and fauna give much pleasure to those of us who live in and near Coldspring Newtown.

We see this city-owned arboretum daily and we want its loveliness preserved. Walk through nearby Coldspring Newtown and see that we have continued our own loveliness for more than 16 years.

It should be obvious to Cylburn Arboretum and those who come to our community from outside of the city that Coldspring Newtowners work diligently. We will have no environmental degradation to the arboretum or our own community, which our mayor has called "a jewel in the city's crown."

Not only was this community among the first to recycle, but we have been in the forefront to have the vacant Callowhill building razed to curtail the pollution, vandalism and dumping that an empty pool and building can attract.

Is there any more productive and beneficial use of city-owned land than living space for happy people who are productive homeowners?

We are puzzled by the writer's statements -- "education inequity" and "districted for less challenging schools." Is it not the right of parents to want schools for their children that can best meet their educational needs?

It seems that Ms. Smith is preaching to the choir. Coldspring Newtown wants to continue in peace and harmony with nature and with Cylburn Arboretum. There can be no better neighbors than we are.

It is shortsighted to thwart new housing for this planned community. And make no mistake about it: City Council Bill 429 will pass and there will be construction on the site of the vacant Callowhill building. If not now, when?

Charles and Harriet Griffin


Phony Service

Here's a good one for you about AT&T automated operator service.

Occasionally my friends and family call me collect at times I am not home so my answering machine answers.

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