Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 20, 2006

Schaefer defends state's retirees

As a member of the board of trustees of the Maryland State Retirement Systems (and of the Investment Committee), I found the article on Comptroller William Donald Schaefer's attendance at Investment Committee meetings just more sensationalism in The Sun's apparent effort to unseat him ("Schaefer under fire for absences," Aug. 16).

As the article points out, the investment committee of the state's pension system may only recommend investment decisions to the full board, which then acts on such recommendation.

The full board is not a rubber stamp.

Hence, Mr. Schaefer's attendance at full board meetings is the key issue here.

And it is irrelevant what former Comptrollers Louis L. Goldstein and Robert L. Swann did or did not do. They served in a different era.

In my time on the board, I have found Mr. Schaefer to be primarily interested in one thing - the welfare of present and future state retirees.

He makes that abundantly clear to fellow board members and staff. And that is a great example to follow.

F. Patrick Hughes

Baltimore

Middle schools fail for myriad reasons

Is it any surprise that one-third of Maryland's public middle schools are failing to meet new federal standards ("More Md. schools fail new standards," Aug. 17)? It should not be.

First of all, federal standards are arbitrary and do not adequately address the diversity of middle school students.

Moreover, middle school administrators and their superiors are quick to adopt "flavor-of-the-month" teaching strategies and quick fixes rather than relying on conservative, proven modes of instruction.

Discipline in middle schools is often lax. Students are not held to a high standard of behavior and achievement.

And so-called "minor" subjects such as art, music, vocational and physical education have often been eliminated, which denies students exposure to subjects that might stimulate their interest in school and their desire to learn.

The students themselves often lack motivation. And they often come from circumstances or cultures where education is not valued.

Finally, if state Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick's regime claims responsibility for progress in education in Maryland public schools, it must also now be held accountable for the problems.

Clearly, the Maryland State Department of Education's micro-management approach is not working.

Dennis Sirman

Long Neck, Del.

The writer is a former assistant principal in the Baltimore County public schools.

Cutting standards handicaps students

It is downright revolting to see a school system lower its standards in a world that is advancing every day all around us. And once again, the powers that be are choosing to take the easy way out on an issue that has plagued our city schools for years ("Passing easier in city schools," Aug. 15).

How dare the city handicap our kids by telling them that a grade of 60 or 65 is acceptable?

The members of the city school board should hang their heads in shame.

Katherine Crumley

Owings Mills

Punish president for breaking law

So, a federal judge has ruled that the unwarranted telephone taps on U.S. citizens are unconstitutional ("NSA spying ruled illegal," Aug. 18).

This illegal telephone surveillance program was authorized by President Bush, who in his oath of office swore to preserve, protect and defend the U.S. Constitution.

President Bush broke the law and disregarded his duty to uphold the Constitution.

When will Congress do its duty and hold the President accountable for his illegal deeds?

Daniel A. Frost

Baltimore

Security cameras do help cut crime

As a resident of Park Heights, I am a big fan of the "pole cameras" ("Jessamy criticized over cameras," Aug. 16).

We have one of the cameras in front of our apartment building and the impact has been substantial. The few ladies of the night, or day, in the area have stopped visiting our corner, for instance.

I have twice volunteered to scan the monitors at the Northwestern District Police Station.

And I have found that, even pole camera footage that is, as a spokesperson for Baltimore States's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy suggested in an e-mail to prosecutors, "grainy, blurry, and hard to see for court identification purposes" can provide effective tools for police.

On the day I watched alleged drug activity, the cameras provided footage of the duration of the alleged criminal activity.

This gave police time to capture elements of multiple potential crimes and identify some of the characteristics of those under surveillance.

Gail Belaga

Baltimore

Another murderer gets life, not death

Raymont Hopewell pleads guilty to five murders and yet is allowed to live based on some unknown plea agreement ("Man admits to string of murders, rapes," Aug. 12).

The judge is likely to sentence the murderer to multiple life sentences - big deal.

Mr. Hopewell will only be able to serve one life sentence - when you are dead all the remaining sentences are meaningless.

And this is another murder case in Baltimore without a death penalty.

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