Letters for February 14, 2013

City school district crushes dreams

Re “Worst practices” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Bites, February 7):

My fiancée and I bought a house in Curtis Park last year, near Bret Harte Elementary School. We are planning to start a family, and having an elementary school nearby was a major factor in our decision. We saw the community that existed at Bret Harte contributing to a vibrant neighborhood.

Now Bret Harte is on the list of schools to be closed, and our children could instead end up going over a mile away to either Fr. Keith B. Kenny School or Oak Ridge Elementary School. Both are low performing and enrolled at a lower rate than Bret Harte but are staying open because they're “priority schools”—i.e., they're the superintendent's pet projects.

I can't follow the logic of closing high-performing, high-enrollment schools in order to keep lower-performing, lower-enrollment schools open. I also can't follow economics that expect to maintain enrollment while forcing students out of their neighborhoods and into schools which the district itself identifies as “low performing, high poverty.” We want to have the school we dreamed of when we talked about buying a home and starting our family. We want to send our children to Bret Harte Elementary. Sacramento City Unified School District, please give us that opportunity.

Ben Richey


It’s not just the teachers

Re “Bad teachers” by Jeff vonKaenel (SN&R Greenlight, February 7):

Hard to disagree with what you say. However, you are providing only part of the story. Sometimes, low-quality teachers get the administrative and district support they need to improve, often improving, but sometimes not. But they are usually just ignored. Teachers are supposed to be evaluated on an ongoing basis on their teaching ability, which is a broad skill set only partly reflected in test scores. But often they are not.

Which leads to the issue of low-quality administrators. Low-quality administrators are often shuffled from school to school, looking for a place they won’t cause too much damage. And if that doesn’t work, they are elevated to the district office. Fire them, too?

And then there are parents, who are often responsible for many of the problems their kids bring to school, both behaviorally and academically. Fire them, too?

And the students who are so disruptive that they prevent other students from learning and create a hostile learning environment for the entire school. Fire them, too?

So, yes, fire incompetent teachers who have not taken advantage of professional support to improve when that support has been offered. But let’s not stop at teachers.

Dan Allison


Skip the arena, renovate the retail

Re “Make Sacramento a destination city” by James Battles (SN&R Letters, January 31):

Battles isn’t the first person to voice the idea of replacing the Downtown Plaza with a sports and entertainment complex in recent months, but I certainly wish he would be the last. Any talk about revitalizing downtown that includes removing a center of daily retail as part of the plan is completely foolish. I’m not clueless. I’m well-aware that the Downtown Plaza has problems and that it seems to be getting worse, not better. I want to find ways to improve it. But removing it is not a good solution for downtown. A sports complex would bring people into downtown for specific events, and yes, they will spend money while they are there, mostly at restaurants and nightlife. But is that all we want downtown to be? A place where people who don’t live there head for entertainment? I don’t think so. I think any plan to revitalize the city should be focused on increasing the number of people living and working in downtown as well as drawing in people who live elsewhere.

A vibrant, living community (which also happens to spend money in the city daily) is what will revitalize the city’s core, not just evening attractions for those who live elsewhere. Removing a core of retail in the downtown area simply makes it that much more inconvenient to live downtown. Let’s stop throwing around the idea of simply eliminating it.

Matt Czarnowski

via email

The right to not be shot

Re “Teachers financing guns” by Darwin BondGraham (SN&R Frontlines, January 31):

In the debate over gun rights, an important right is being ignored: my right not to be shot. Protecting the rights of responsible gun owners is all well and good, but what about irresponsible gun owners? I have twice been endangered by presumably legal gun owners. It makes no difference to a victim if he is shot (or perhaps NRAed) by a good or an evil gunman.

Background checks are great, but a “psychological background check” is just silly. The most practical solution for assessing the mental health of a gun purchaser is to require a psychological evaluation for prospective gun buyers. Police are routinely psychologically evaluated and closely monitored. Citizens are not monitored, so a psychological evaluation seems to be a good precaution.

If machine guns and silencers are prohibited, can we not also prohibit assault rifles and large-ammunition clips?

Larry Breen


Concerned parents = informed parents

Re “Unvaccinated students in Sacramento” by Jeff vonKaenel (SN&R Greenlight, January 31):

Parents who question the standard vaccination schedule are not out of their minds. They are concerned parents who refused to be bullied into making uninformed choices. Add into the mix the fact that vaccines are big business, making drug companies millions of dollars a year. Where are parents to turn when they want information on vaccination safety? Their pediatrician, who makes money off every vaccine? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who is heavily influenced by lobbyists?

Jeff VonKaenel is attempting to bully and insult parents into making uninformed choices. That is insane. As a parent and a child-care provider who has spent a great deal of time attempting to make sense of vaccines, I don’t agree with the standard CDC vaccination schedule, but I do understand that there is some validity to the points VonKaenel was clumsily trying to make. But any grown-up knows that extremism and bullying doesn’t solve anything. Parents who question the standard are not out of their minds. They are rightfully concerned. Implying otherwise is malicious propaganda of the worst kind. We should be encouraging parents to educate themselves and make informed choices, not scaring them into making ignorant choices.

Cyndi Lopez