Dallas ISD, Pearl C. Anderson Middle School, Teachers, Judges, Voter Turnout, Elections

Marshall forgets transparencyRe: "Why does DISD resist data for improvement? Trustee Dustin Marshall says too many are only interested in protecting the status quo," Sunday Points. Solid data, well-defined and accurate, must drive Dallas ISD decision-making. Marshall is right. Sadly, he fails to mention transparency. Instead he attacks the two trustees working hardest for transparency. He states: "If you look at the number of items that are pulled off the consent agenda at our DISD board meetings, 99.9 percent are pulled by two people. And, if you look at the amount of time spent speaking at our board meetings, it's 90-plus percent those same two people."I attend most DISD monthly board meetings. I have listened for hours to questions by Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall about the items they pulled. There is a pattern to the questions these heroic trustees ask. Most often their concerns are poorly documented expenditures. Most concerns would disappear if DISD trustees and staff were to better document items in the DISD board meeting agendas. This would benefit everyone in Dallas. It would provide a more complete written record. If Marshall agrees, he should demand better-documented agenda items. He should join Nutall and Foreman in their battle. Better agenda documentation and transparency would provide shorter board meetings!. Everyone wins!Bill Betzen, DallasAnderson school has dimmedThe closing of Pearl C. Anderson Middle School Learning Center in South Dallas several yeas ago depressed an already depressed area. The building has now become a canvas for graffiti artists.Pearl C. Anderson received national recognition when, in 1954, she deeded a tract of land valued at $350,000 to the Dallas Community Chest Trust Fund. The essence of her philanthropy is best captured in one of her favorite phrases, "What you keep is what you use, but what you give is what you have." She insisted that her funds be used without regard to race or creed. The Dallas ISD honored her when the school was named for her. Now the school building that bears her name, once a beacon of light, is gradually becoming a beacon of blight.Robert E. Edison, Pleasant GroveLet the teachers teachWhy is there a shortage of teachers? The answer is the same as for nurses and police -- they can't do their jobs. It's not a criticism of their ability or effort but rather the administrative tasks that stop them from doing their actual jobs. The often-reported shortage of capable, experienced teachers is exacerbated by the number of young teachers who start with great enthusiasm but leave disillusioned within five years. Teachers want to teach, for which they have been studying for at least four years, but they are stuck with doing administrative work and repetitive professional development in order to stay registered. What can be done to remedy this -- at a reasonable cost and in a reasonable time? More money is always a positive, although most people don't enter the profession for the financial rewards but for what they can do for their students. Respect for teachers has declined and it can't be addressed by governments but rather by individual teachers who earn it.Perhaps the only significant change at the moment is to recognize that teachers teach and administrators administer and never the twain should meet in one person.Dennis Fitzgerald, Melbourne, AustraliaChange elections for judgesIn our state we select judges in partisan elections. Texas is only one of seven states that use this system. About 40 percent of states choose their judges through a merit system. Another approximately 40 percent select them through non-partisan elections. Two states appoint their judges, similar to the way the federal judiciary is selected. Isn't the judiciary is supposed to be isolated from politics? Texas elects our judges every four years. In the other states that have partisan elections, judges are elected for a minimum of six years up to 10 years. Judges no sooner get on the bench and settle in when they have to start raising money to run again. In the recent elections, we voted for 86 offices, of which 68 are judgeships. How is the average voter expected to make an informed decision about the qualifications and demeanor of a judge they have never seen or heard about their decisions? The answer is they cannot. We deserve a better method and so do the people seeking justice. We depend on these judges for honest, nonpolitical decisions. We Texans seem to have the worst of all worlds.David Sparrow, East DallasEmpower the children Re: "Give Us Your Best Idea -- How can we increase local voter turnout?" Feb. 15 Editorials. Thank you, Dallas Morning News, for offering what we need to do to involve the electorate in the right and privilege to vote in a democratic country. I'm absolutely appalled when I hear that young adults cannot name Supreme Court justices much less their own state representatives. And local elections for school boards have pathetic numbers of citizen voting.My best idea is education beginning in schools with local councilpersons, state representatives, senators and volunteers like me to attend middle school classes to discuss basic civics and social studies. Bringing elected officials into the classroom to explain their jobs is just the beginning. Volunteers could join in the mix to discuss the branches of U.S. government, laying the basis for state government. I'm sure the ISDs could and would find time during history classes, for example, for this initiative.Education. It's the foundation for the young to learn not only reading, writing and arithmetic, but to empower them to get and be involved.Dianne Kennedy, DallasImproving our electionsI have to applaud your efforts to get a better turnout in local elections, but changing the local elections to November is a terrible idea.Why? It would turn local elections into partisan battles and we really don't need to make that issue worse! Donors would be "tapped out" to support state and national candidates, with no money left over for city and school campaigns. Voters already suffer from ballot fatigue -- that is, fewer votes are cast in down ballot races. Or, they will pull a straight party lever in hopes that a straight party vote might elect a candidate who shares their philosophy of government.Because many voters have never had a civics class (they stopped requiring civics in school decades ago), they do not understand the impact local elections have on their lives. Excessive property taxes, unneeded regulations and poorly planned bond issues affect the quality of life in any community. It can take years for a community to recover from poor civic leadership.It would be a good idea, however, to have more time between partisan primaries and local elections. Sixty days is not enough.Liz Oliphant, Addison  Continue reading...

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