New principals will matter for failing schools I was...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 29, 2002

New principals will matter for failing schools

I was disappointed to read The Sun's negative reaction to state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick's plan to put high-powered principals in failing schools and raise their salary to $125,000 ("A matter of principal," editorial, July 19).

As a substitute teacher in the Howard County public school system and adjunct economics instructor at Howard Community College, I have followed the lack of progress on education with considerable interest over the years.

I've seen big money thrown at textbook manufacturers, administrators, computer companies and consultants. I've seen money go to test-makers to revamp tests and produce new tests so students can be tested every time they sneeze.

And I've seen teachers and principals, through all of this, have to fight year in and year out for measly pay raises.

I believe that many teachers agree that the solution to the education problem is fairly straightforward: reduce class sizes, increase teachers' compensation and put strong principals in the schools. Ms. Grasmick's plan is an important step in the right direction, and I have no doubt that the test scores at the schools involved will skyrocket.

And, as for the highly competent principals who didn't get picked this time, instead of interpreting this as a "lack of appreciation," I believe they will work even harder to increase the likelihood that they will be chosen in the next phase.

Robert Wasilewski

Glenelg

Bondsmen perform a public service

The Sun unfairly jeopardizes the positive reputation of licensed bail bondsmen when it erroneously lumps us together with those who illegally misrepresent themselves as bail bondsmen and then allegedly beat up and kidnap people ("Three bounty hunters charged with assault," July 4).

In Maryland, surety bail bondsmen are licensed property and casualty insurance agents from insurance companies appointed by the Maryland Insurance Administration. A qualifying power of attorney is filed for each licensed bail bondsman with the District Court of Maryland.

Like every other property and casualty insurance agent, surety bail bondsmen are required to complete the 96-hour property and casualty pre-licensing course; pass the state-administered property and casualty procedures examination; and, in each license renewal period, fulfill 16 hours of continuing education.

Bail bondsmen work in tandem with the law enforcement community to aid in the orderly administration of justice, providing a service that ensures a defendant's appearance in court and enhances public safety, at no cost to Maryland taxpayers.

Barry D. Udoff

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Maryland Bail Bond Association.

Counties need help prosecuting inmates

I commend reporter Andrea Siegel for calling attention to the enormous difficulties of prosecuting inmates who commit new assaults and killings while already committed to state prison ("Prison bars confine justice," July 15).

The overwhelming majority of Maryland inmates with long sentences are confined in four counties: Allegany, Anne Arundel, Somerset and Washington. None of these counties has a big-budget state's attorney's office. To go after inmate predators, and racketeers who deal drugs and tobacco, their prosecutors need help.

It seems obvious that this help should come from a new unit in the office of the state's attorney general.

Hal Riedl

Baltimore

Punishing addicts stifles treatment

The manslaughter charge against a Carroll County woman accused of supplying a prescription drug to a heroin-using relative (who ultimately died of an overdose) reaffirms a bad situation ("Woman charged in drug death of nephew," July 17).

Drug users are reluctant to seek medical attention for fellow users for fear of being charged with a crime.

I think it's safe to say that turnout at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings would be rather low if alcoholism were a crime pursued with zero-tolerance zeal. The tough-on-some-drugs approach compels problem users of illegal drugs to suffer in silence.

Eliminating the stigma and penalties associated with illicit drug addiction would encourage the type of honest discussion necessary to facilitate rehabilitation and save lives.

Robert Sharpe

Washington

The writer is a program officer for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Stokes' shooting can't be condoned

I continue to be appalled by the citizens who condone, or at the very least excuse, the actions of Dontee Stokes.

My sympathies go out to Mr. Stokes - he was the victim of a heinous crime at the hands of someone he trusted. Nine years later, he went to that man, Maurice Blackwell, and demanded an apology. Mr. Stokes was entitled to that much. However, when Mr. Stokes took the law into his own hands and shot an unarmed man in cold blood, he lost his rights.

We do not live in a society that condones "an eye for an eye." Rape victims do not have the right to kill their attackers. Burglary victims are not entitled to cut off the thief's hand.

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