Saturday Mailbox


October 13, 2007

Personal prep time critical to teachers

The Sun's editorial "Mountains and molehills" (Oct. 11) misses the point of the teachers' protests entirely, and attempts to reduce the issue at hand to a mere 45 minutes of individual planning time.

Perhaps if The Sun truly listened to teachers and union officials, it could develop a better understanding of the issue.

For instance, in a recent letter to the editor, a retired teacher explained that she had to arrive an hour early and leave an hour late to perform her teaching duties effectively. She suggested that teachers be given three additional planning periods per week ("Add planning time for primary teachers," Oct. 8).

Here's what The Sun's editors and the citizens of Baltimore should know.

In New York, the former home and workplace of city schools CEO Andres Alonso, the collective bargaining agreement between the United Federation of Teachers and the board of education gives all teachers, regardless of the level on which they teach, at least one self-directed preparation period per day. In addition, all secondary teachers and teachers in elementary schools who teach eight periods per day have one "professional period" per day.

Thus Mr. Alonso seeks to impose on Baltimore teachers conditions that do not exist - and would not be tolerated - in the New York system.

The Baltimore school system provides less planning time for teachers than any other school district in Central Maryland does. What's at issue here is the school board's attempt to reduce teachers' planning time even further.

The Baltimore Teachers Union has put forth several proposals and compromises to Mr. Alonso to resolve this issue. They have all been turned down.

Teachers are drawing the line at cutting individual planning time because they feel that this time is essential to their professional performance and to the work they do for children.

It is not merely a matter of 45 minutes.

Marietta English


The writer is president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

Real issue is rape, not legal liability

As executive director of an advocacy organization for survivors of sexual violence, I find it difficult to witness the absurd drama that has unfolded around the Clothesline Project at the University of Maryland, College Park ("UM ban on names draws protests," Oct. 4).

How is it that after 17 years of hosting the Clothesline Project with not a single defamation lawsuit resulting from the event, the school suddenly wants to limit the ways in which some rape victims can express what happened to them?

The university is certainly faced with a legitimate legal quandary. After all, the issue of free speech vs. defamation of character has been debated time and again.

However, in fixating on this controversy, we are forgetting larger, more important questions that have gone unanswered for far too long:

Why are so many students on the campus being raped? Why is it that victims feel that the only justice they can get is by naming names on a T-shirt? Which names would the school rather not see emblazoned across T-shirts? Those of star athletes? Student leaders? Sons of prominent school officials?

Why is it that the school seems so concerned about potential liability issues when the very real and long-standing needs of rape victims on campus are not being met?

Students are entitled to a campus community that neither condones nor quietly accepts sexual violence. To foster such a climate, the message from the administration must clearly convey intolerance of sexual offenses.

When the culture of rape is so prominent on a campus that an annual Clothesline Project becomes a bone of contention debated beyond the campus grounds, clearly the real issue must be larger than one of exposure and liability.

Jennifer Pollitt Hill


The writer is executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Make pro athletes repay scholarships

The recent news that not one scholarship athlete on the University of Maryland men's basketball team from 1997 to 2000 graduated should not shock anyone. But that reality is entirely unacceptable ("UM men's basketball grad rate falls again," Oct. 4).

It's time for all of us, including our colleges and universities, to call athletic scholarships what they really are - salaries for minor-league athletes.

Colleges make substantial profits on athletics, and use that to rationalize awarding such scholarships.

Many of the students who get such scholarships do not care about their education. But they end up getting a free ride and occupying seats in the classroom many other youths would love to have.

We hear of schools imposing sanctions on athletic programs because an athlete has received special treatment from alumni or other sources. Please, spare us the hypocrisy, and clean up your own house.

Enough is enough. I propose that athletic scholarships be eliminated and replaced with athletic salaries.

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