Readers Respond

November 08, 2009

Principals must be instructors, managers

Before I was elected to Congress, I served for seven years in the Maryland State Department of Education as a liaison to the Baltimore City Public Schools. During that time, I came to appreciate that a key component for creating a successful school was having a principal who is a strong instructional leader. So I was very pleased to see the discussion that played out over the last week in The Baltimore Sun regarding the role of principals in our schools ("Power to the principals," Oct. 28, and "Principals need more support," Readers respond, Oct. 30).

The best principals are not just good managers. They are also instructional leaders. Principals are tasked with creating an environment where young people are prepared to succeed in life. Part of this task includes ensuring that teachers have the knowledge and instructional skills necessary to create this positive environment.

To better prepare principals for this challenge, I was proud to introduce the Instructional Leadership Act, which will provide resources to train principals on the best practices to guide teaching and learning. It also offers support by creating a mentoring program for new principals. This bill is a necessary step toward developing the next generation of school leaders who are committed to, and effective in, increasing student achievement.

John Sarbanes, BaltimoreThe writer, a Democrat, represents Maryland's 3rd District in Congress.

No matter how you drink, you shouldn't drive

I could not disagree more with Sarah Longwell's op-ed "MADD's ignition interlock proposal goes too far" (Nov. 4).

Ms. Longwell writes: "A 120-pound woman can reach the legal limit of 0.08 after two 6-ounce glasses of wine over a two-hour period. Under this new mandate, if she drives, she would automatically be punished with an interlock."

Ms. Longwell misses the point. The issue here is not in what manner a driver has consumed alcohol but whether the driver can safely operate an automobile. Whether the driver is a lifelong alcoholic drinking cheap malt liquor or an upstanding citizen sipping fine organic wine masterfully paired with an exquisite, locally sourced dinner makes no difference.

We do not have the inalienable right to drink two glasses of wine with dinner and then drive an automobile. For those of us who do enjoy drinking alcohol, we have many options besides posing a hazard on the road: We can take public transit, we can carpool, we can take taxicabs. We need to think outside the car, and Ms. Longwell's piece is not helping us to do that.

Elizabeth Petro, Baltimore

Nuclear is clean power

Allison Fisher's letter to the editor arguing that development of nuclear power "thwarts efforts to develop a clean energy sector" almost made me spit out my morning coffee (Readers respond, Nov. 6).

Nuclear power is, and always has been, a very clean energy option.

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management states that if "all the spent fuel produced to date in the United States [was] stack[ed] side-by-side, end-to-end, the fuel assemblies would cover an area about the size of a football field to a depth of about five yards."

How does that compare the 130 million tons per year of contaminated waste produced by coal power? Or the risks of oil spills? Or the degradation of land during the extraction of oil shale? Or mountain top removal?

Nuclear energy produces no greenhouse gases and, besides the actual construction location, does not affect the local environment in a negative way.

Nuclear is a viable option and should be used to complement the nation's energy needs and the customers of BG&E.

Mark Fischer

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