Letters for July 5, 2001

Justifying the means

Re “The Power Principle” by Stephan James (SN&R Cover, June 21):

I was almost humorously reminded of the great film Lean on Me as I read your article about Andre Douyon’s ongoing battle for reform at Hiram Johnson High School.

Here is a man who has been assigned to a floundering inner city school for the sole purpose of reforming policy and cleaning up the mess that the school has become. Douyon obviously has a very clear picture of where he is and where he needs to be in terms of repairing the school and he is actively implementing his ideas—as he was hired to do.

It is to be expected that Douyon will have some resistance and people will oppose his policies and the way he does business. What the opposing parties seem to forget is that he is there to do a job.

As a member of the workforce, I am fully aware that clashes between superiors and subordinates do occur, especially when a new manager, or in this case principal, has been given the particularly difficult task of “house cleaning” and repairing policy. Those employees who left their posts while under Douyon’s authority were obviously unaware that personality conflicts do not ever belong in the professional arena.

Whether Douyon is likeable has no bearing at all in respect to his ability to perform as a school principal. Of course, respect and professionalism should be observed at all times, but if the teachers and other staff at Hiram Johnson wanted a friend instead of a leader for a principal, maybe Hiram Johnson isn’t where they need to be.

Douyon is a strong leader and with that comes strong opinions and even stronger opposition. Your article quotes a former employee of Douyon’s as saying that Douyon’s short terms as principal at other schools before Hiram Johnson should have alerted the Sacramento City Unified School District to trouble. Douyon was hired to reform, clean up and basically recreate atmospheres at those schools before Hiram Johnson. If he can do that in 18 months, that is all the better. Let him do what he was hired to do and move on to other schools in need of his support.

To say Andre Douyon is authoritative is probably not far from the truth, but who else than a man who encompasses authority, power and pride for what he does can reform such a place as Hiram Johnson and other schools like it? Yes, Mr. Douyon, you are correct. The ends do justify the means.

Shauna Kinchen

Special attention

Re “The Power Principle” by Stephan James (SN&R Cover, June 21):

After reading your article about Andre Douyon, the “power principal,” I cannot figure out if he is a boss out of control or just a boss! I’m sure the situation at Hiram Johnson High School is far more complex than was explained in your article. While I can’t really comment on whether or not I think Douyon is a good principal or a bad one, I can comment on the state of special education in our schools.

Hiram Johnson is not alone. All schools will be trying to cut back on services to save money. I can explain it if you wish, but I imagine your readers are not as interested in the delivery of special education services as I. Instead I thought I’d jump right to the conclusion.

It is ridiculous to mainstream students with disabilities and expect that they will be able to keep up just because we expect them to. Special ed teachers are not worried about a principal looking over their shoulders. They are worried about denying services (that they have been trained to provide) to deserving students. Although these issues can be very complicated, I do think there is a simple solution that would solve many of the issues.

The cheapest way to educate a diverse student population is to have smaller class sizes!

Deirdre O’Reilly

Top down

Re “The Power Principle” by Stephan James (SN&R Cover, June 21):

When I read the article on the principal, I thought the article was about the school district’s Jim Sweeny and his assistant, Laura Bruno.

It is interesting to note the similarities between the administration and the site administrator at Hiram Johnson. The principal at Hiram Johnson is not the only site administrator with little or no people skills. Perhaps the type of person Sweeny brings to the district speaks volumes of his own abilities, to lead this district in a fair and equitable manner leaving no child behind, and bringing the best personnel available to the “poor minority students” and special needs children.

John Roberts
via e-mail

Bike path rage

Re “Achieving Critical Mass” by Margo Whitmire (SN&R Sidelines, June 21):

I have commuted to work by bicycle, rain or shine, since 1986 and wholeheartedly endorse more people giving it a try.

Yes, I have been yelled at, run off the road, have had tennis balls and fruit thrown at me, have had countless close encounters with vehicles, even been hassled by cops.

However, I have also observed other cyclists, both commuters and serious group riders, ride on the wrong side of the street, ride in the middle of the road, almost run down pedestrians, and blow through stop signs and red lights.

So to all you cyclists who complain about not getting any respect, remember, common courtesy works both ways. If motorists observe us riding responsibly, obeying the rules of the road, maybe they will be more willing to share the road.

Ken Wing

Staff infection

Re “Trouble at Homes” by Deanna Broxton (SN&R News, June 14):

Thank you for your excellent story on the sorry state of nursing home care in California. It is an outrage that nursing homes continue to subject residents to neglect and abuse.

As noted in the story, workers are in the same boat with residents, fighting for better care while the nursing homes fail to provide the basic resources needed to provide that care. The biggest reason for this crisis in care is understaffing, and that’s why it is so important to require minimum staffing ratios in nursing homes. This approach is being implemented in California hospitals now, and it should be done in nursing homes too.

Assembly Majority Leader Kevin Shelley’s AB 1075 would do just that. The bill has cleared the Assembly, and is now up for consideration in the Senate. Let’s fix our nursing homes now by supporting this legislation. The nursing home crisis is a moral disgrace, and it should not continue another day.

Jeremy Prillwitz

Call to action

Re “Power to the People” by Steven T. Jones (SN&R Cover, June 14):

I loved Steven Jones’ scenario of a just and optimistic near future where we Californians control our own power and recuperate the hundreds of billions of dollars gouged from us by the mega-power corps. And I can easily foresee a bit further down the line a scenario where we Californians use that control and those hundreds of billions of dollars to move energy policy to local control, decentralized renewable sources, conservation and high efficiency. The technology is there, it’s dirt cheap in today’s manipulated energy market, and it’s good for business. It’s just not good for the few folks who currently control the power: oil/gas/utility/construction, mega corps and Wall Street.

A shift to a solar economy could have local businesses installing solar panels, water heaters and wind generators, insulating houses, growing and planting trees, painting roofs white—instead of sucking billions of consumer and taxpayer dollars into the pockets of the already unimaginably wealthy mega corporations driving the disaster.

Jones’ liberating future is what we want, what we deserve, and what the insatiable greed of the mega-power corps has ironically given us a chance to have. But only if we the people make our voices as loud as the lobbyists whispering in the ears of the lawmakers—chief among them the governor the power boys call Gravy Days. The lobbyists are flashing wallets fat with the billions they’ve drained from us—but we’ve got the votes. Check out the Web sites powertothepeople.org, consumerwatchdog.org, turn.org, calpirg.org for ways to make your voice heard. Call the lawmakers (see Yellow Pages). No bailout! Seize the plants! Excess profits tax! Renewable energy/efficiency! Power to the people! Yes!

Jeanie Keltner
via e-mail