Professionals in city schools deserve better Thank you...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

May 11, 2002

Professionals in city schools deserve better

Thank you for Liz Bowie's informative article "Proposed city schools job cuts protested" (May 2).

My position is one of those slated for elimination. I serve as the elementary science curriculum specialist responsible for improving science instruction in the elementary grades.

Until last fall, I was the first and only person in that job.

I work with four other curriculum specialists in the Office of Science and Health Education and was responsible for adopting an elementary science textbook and materials, an arduous and exacting task that involved spending more than $5 million.

I also oversaw the writing of the science curriculum for all city elementary schools.

And, as of March, according to our records, our office had completed 28,000 hours of K-5 science professional staff development, training 2,400 elementary teachers during the 2001-2002 school year on the content and use of the newly adopted materials.

I was overjoyed when a second person was added as an elementary science specialist last fall.

But I read with curiosity the statement by the city schools' chief academic officer, Cassandra Jones, that the central office is "top-heavy."

In fact, we are short-handed in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction. Yet the new organizational plan adds directors and other high-level, high-salary positions while cutting 45 lower-level positions.

I am proud of the work we do and happy that test scores in Baltimore are beginning to come up.

Ms. Jones says she wants to put two coaches in every school to help teachers.

That's a great idea. But emptying out the central office would be "robbing Peter to pay Paul."

While Ms. Jones contends the reorganization was "well-discussed among her senior staff," the people affected by the cuts have had no input or even explanation of the plan.

One wonders why professionals who are experts in their content fields are treated as if they are of so little value.

Joyce P. Wheeler

Baltimore

The writer is interim elementary science specialist for Baltimore's public schools.

Count households instead of residents

In my mind, the idea that the city has lost 15,000 people over the last year conflicts with the sense of growing confidence in the city's future as shown by its many improving neighborhoods, including Patterson Park ("The city shrinks," editorial, May 1). What's going on?

We all probably agree that families with children continue to leave the city.

That will change only slowly, as schools get better and streets safer.

However, the city also continues to attract young singles and couples.

Perhaps we should use the net change in the number of city households as our measure of success.

Let's look at one possibility. Suppose 6,000 families with an average family size of four left the city. Suppose also that 3,000 single people and 3,000 couples entered the city as new residents. The city would have lost 15,000 people, but its net household loss would be zero.

The implications are important. There would be no more vacant houses. Fewer city services would be required. And rising house prices indicate that the new residents' incomes might be higher.

What does this mean? A growing tax base requiring fewer services.

That sounds just fine to me.

Of course, we don't know if this explanation fits the facts. But it fits my sense of the city's improvement, and we ought to consider it.

Ed Rutkowski

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Patterson Park Community Development Corp.

Office-based care can aid more addicts

In his column "Few argue about need for drug treatment -- but many argue about where" (April 14), Michael Olesker identified one of the critical issues in drug treatment: We need more, but under current policies we are hard-pressed to expand treatment.

The outdated Harrison Narcotics Act prevents physicians from prescribing Schedule II narcotics for the treatment of addiction. As a consequence, the few physicians with experience treating these patients are those who work in the regulated specialty clinics.

But as Mr. Olesker stated: "If we believe in treatment of addicts, then treat them in a doctor's office."

Indeed, this approach is being researched and showing success. Experiments with office-based treatment show drug addicts can be treated successfully by physicians who take the time to learn how to do so.

And two years ago, Congress and the president saw that private physicians can help solve the treatment shortage and passed the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000.

This law allows physicians in private practice to prescribe narcotics that have less potential for abuse than such Schedule II drugs as morphine or Demerol and are approved for the treatment of heroin addicts by the Food and Drug Administration.

Thousands of physicians have completed the continuing education courses required under the law and are waiting for the FDA to approve the first drug for this purpose.

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