Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

March 06, 2004

Superintendent didn't oversee schools properly

Maryland schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick calls the reports she received from the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners "crummy," thereby absolving her from any responsibility for the current fiscal crisis ("Blame doesn't stick for Md. school chief," Feb. 29).

Such a statement is the equivalent of the "dog ate my homework" excuse. And missing from The Sun's article was any discussion of Ms. Grasmick's legal obligations contained in the statutes governing the city-state schools partnership.

The education article of the Annotated Code of Maryland requires the city's school board and the CEO to issue an annual report to the superintendent that "includes a financial statement and a comprehensive accounting of progress in the implementation of the master plan."

One goal of the master plan is to set forth a plan for improving the "management and accountability of the Baltimore City public school system" by specifying actions needed to "provide an effective financial management and budgeting system" for the school system.

After receiving the Baltimore school system's annual report, Ms. Grasmick, as the state superintendent, is required by law to "review each annual report and comment on the progress made toward achieving both managerial and educational goals."

Before approving the budget for the next year, the General Assembly is provided the commissioner's annual report "along with the state superintendent's comments or recommendations."

If the school system's reports were crummy, as Ms. Grasmick says, she should have sounded the alarm bells loudly -- rather than whispering an ineffectual protest.

If the system is so broken that we must ask the city school board to step aside as we move to a new system of accountability, we likewise should request that Ms Grasmick step aside and allow others to resolve the fiscal crisis her lack of attentive oversight has helped create.

Claudia Diamond Phil Diamond Baltimore

Provide city schools resources they need

The position taken by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Robert R. Neall on extracting pay concessions from teachers to salvage the fiscal crisis of our city schools fails to acknowledge that education is a labor-intensive endeavor ("Schools' bailout tests role of labor," March 3).

There is no replacement for an empathetic, passionate and skilled teacher to help students on the journey that education can become.

Teachers have historically been underpaid relative to the time commitments and educational preparation expected by their profession. The historical dependence on females to populate this occupation has played a part in this salary and status compression.

And despite recent salary gains, city teachers remain under-rewarded for the tough jobs that face many of them each and every day.

The debate over the city schools mess has devolved into a partisan battle over political support, petty rivalries and paybacks.

It is time to bring this ridiculous game to a close and provide for the children of Baltimore and the city's teachers and taxpayers the kind of financial, logistical and administrative support they need.

Aaron I. Schneiderman

Baltimore

State should own the slots facilities

The issue of slot machines at the racetracks has surfaced again in the General Assembly and now, in addition to bailing out the racing industry, gambling is also seen as the cure for the budget woes of the state ("State Senate gives approval for 6 slots sites," Feb. 28).

I am a patron of the racetracks and have seen firsthand the decline in the industry over the last 10 years. My concern is that the owners of the Maryland Jockey Club (MJC) have continued to profit despite the decline of the racing industry. They have made millions while watching many of those they do business with every day go deep in debt or face financial ruin.

The MJC has failed to improve the physical plant and equipment of its facilities, instead waiting patiently for the taxpayers of Maryland to foot the bill to bail them out.

I support the use of slots or other gaming to provide funds for racing purses and aid the state's general fund. But I do not want to make the owners of the MJC billionaires in the process.

I feel that the state should own and regulate the slots or other gaming industry, not give millions to the MJC or any other interlopers who bring their carpet bags to Maryland set to fill them with the money that belongs to the taxpayers of this state.

Theodore W. Frank Jr.

Millersville

Flight attendants deserve fair pay

In "Employees of `fun' airline aren't amused" (Feb. 29), it should have been noted that although flight attendants at most airlines have pay structures based on time flying, guarantees called "duty rigs" are built into schedules to guarantee productivity and protect against excessive time on the ground caused by weather, security, operational or mechanical delays.

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