Letters to the Editor: Gustavson column, teacher pay and DARE

02/09/2012 5:00 AM |

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Adam Wronowski, representing the Wronowski family, accepts community service award from Andy Binkowski.


Right on the money

Troy has stirred up a hornet’s nest. Now take cover!

His Feb. 2 column, “The chamber made a wrong choice,” about Cross Sound Ferry, was right on the money.

As we know, money talks and everything else walks, so be prepared. The one who carries the message pays the price.

Take it from one who knows.

Best of luck.

Jack McGreevy


Column was off base

If Grant Parpan wants teachers to pay private sector rates for health care, he should be advocating for teachers to be paid on par with their private sector counterparts.

The Economic Policy Institute found in its report, The Teaching Penalty, that teachers are compensated 14 percent less than their counterparts with similar education and work experience. Moreover, this study found that teacher salaries have only grown a paltry 0.8 percent compared with the 11 percent growth for all college graduates since 1990.

If Mr. Parpan did a little research about teacher contract negotiations here on the North Fork, he would have learned (from a Julie Lane story published on Aug. 25, 2011) that Greenport teachers agreed to a salary freeze in 2012-13. And unless he’s been living under a rock, he must also be aware of the massive teacher layoffs that have increased class sizes and reduced budgets in every one of our local districts.

Mr. Parpan uses Mt. Sinai as his shining example of fiscal responsibility. Mt. Sinai’s $100K savings from increased teacher health care contributions averaged out to roughly $30 per household per year — ironically similar to the cost of an annual subscription to The Suffolk Times — in tax savings for the estimated 3,339 households.

Sure, $30 helps. But if we are serious about reducing our taxpayer burden, we could look a little deeper than teacher compensation to find truly wasteful spending in schools, government and public services that could provide more than $30 a year in taxpayer savings.

Moreover, folks concerned about rising taxes in a struggling economy might benefit from taking a longer view of the issue. The Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Columbia University (cbcse.org) found that if we increase our investment in public schools to prevent dropouts, we could save the American public $45 million per year in taxes, or about $127,000 for each student who graduates instead of dropping out. High school dropouts are much more likely to end up in prisons, on welfare or on Medicaid.

We are all concerned about the very poor performance of American students in mathematics and science compared with students from nations like Japan, China, Singapore, Finland and Denmark. Those nations compensate their teachers on par with, or better than, similarly educated professionals.

A true fiscal conservative should be advocating that we raise teacher compensation so we can recruit and retain the best possible educators to our public schools. An educated citizenry reduces dependence on taxpayer-funded programs.

The editorial pages provide an opportunity for The Times to share creative ideas and compelling research that launches a conversation about how to improve our community while reducing excess costs. Lazy journalism and emotional rants at the expense of one particular group of public servants might stir the pot and sell some papers, but they do nothing to help us figure out how we can do more with less in difficult economic conditions.

Doug Roberts


A dedicated force

I recently attended the DARE graduation ceremony at Cutchogue East Elementary School. It was so gratifying to see the myriad of support for the students from teachers, parents and, in particular, our Southold Police Department.

It was obvious that Police Officer William Brewer did a fantastic job in steering our children down the right path. One could not help but get the feeling that our police force is active in preventative measures in helping our kids recognize the dangers that lie ahead.

Officer Brewer included his card with the graduation certificates, telling the children they could call should they need someone to talk to or to ask advice. What a wonderful, caring thing to do.

How fortunate our town is to have such a caring and dedicated police department.

Barbara Kelling


Take an active role

There have been many articles and letters in this newspaper about the importance of early breast cancer detection. They have raised our collective awareness and consciousness about combating this disease and finding a cure.

As a husband, I have always thought that my role was simply to be supportive. To go with my wife to the doctor when she had her annual breast exam. To remind her about doing her self-examinations and ask her how she is doing.

Husbands, significant others, partners, lovers and BFFs need to take a more “hands on” approach. No joke.

While doing a self-exam, your woman might miss a very small lump or mistake it for an insect bite. A small mark or bruise on the skin might be an abrasion from a new bra, or it might be the initial stages of a cancer. She might err on the side of not wanting to panic or upset others. Or she might think that it is most likely nothing. And then there are doctors who’d rather be optimistic and not order an “unnecessary” test. That’s all what I term as “optimistic denial.”

We need to be a “second opinion.” If two heads are better than one, then another pair of hands properly inspecting her breast can’t hurt. Learn how and how often to examine her.

Do it while you are doing a tick check. Have fun or be absolutely serious about it. If you find anything suspicious, run, don’t walk, to a specialist. No democracy here. Make a pact that if either one of you suspect something, it will be checked out.

Too many brave women here have been the victims of breast cancer. Is it caused by the MBTE in our water or the constant “controlled” radioactive discharges from nearby nuclear power plants? Is it the chemicals in our food or the air pollution that we breath? Is it stress or is it genetic? It’s all suspect.

There are continuing advances in medicine to battle this insidious disease. The “magic bullet” may happen in the near future. But until then, we do know that early detection is the best hope. The earlier the better and your involvement is an additional step toward that goal.

So, to all those husbands, significant others, partners, lovers and BFFs, I suggest you join her in a breast examination as an extra Valentine’s Day gift this year. It won’t cost you anything, but she will value it as priceless, for sure. Hopefully you also gave her a card and flowers or something else, too.

The life you might help save may very well be the love of your life.

Vinnie Novak


Compassion lacking

Last Friday night the Unitarian Universalist Church in Southold hosted a Maureen’s Haven overnight stay for the homeless.

Guests arrive on Friday for dinner and later sleep in the fellowship hall. Next morning we make a hot breakfast and offer a bag lunch to go. That’s not much considering how much they need.

Volunteers, of course, do the work and donate the food. We are a mixed group politically because helping those in such desperate need has nothing to do with politics and, as such, is something we can all agree on.

What are we if we don’t have compassion for the unfortunate? What is our Judeo-Christian heritage without compassion?
Last week Gov. Romney stated that he was “not concerned with the very poor. They have a safety net.” When questioned if this was really his position, he said if the safety net has holes, he would fix it. But Gov. Romney recently charged that the safety net was a huge waste of money. Now he says he will repair it, but proposes nothing to fix it.
He has also recently doubled down in his endorsement of the Ryan plan, which would turn Medicare into a voucher program. By contrast, he proposes further tax breaks for the rich. How can Gov. Romney be so devoid of compassion for poor children, the working poor and other unfortunates? About 15 percent of us — 45 million Americans — are defined as poor. Another 30 percent are in danger of falling into this category.

Are we really ready to add to the hunger of children and to turn the elderly out of Medicare nursing homes?

It would seem that Gov. Romney fears that any statements of real concern for the poor will turn off his base. If this is his concern, he should expect more from them. Like those who volunteer for Maureen’s Haven, he should regard concern for the poor as a non-partisan responsibility.

Mort Cogen


It’s a real problem

Last week Newt Gingrich proposed that we colonize the moon.

He didn’t say why this should be paid for by the taxpayers or why we should spend billions on this rather than improving education, or health care, or infrastructure. There is, however, an Apollo-like project that should be pursued with all of the vigor that was put into the Manhattan Project during World War II and the original Apollo Project. Global warming is not a myth as the energy companies and the Republican Party pretend. All reputable scientists agree that we are at or very near the tipping point of disaster.

We can not put off any longer either the scientific or the political discussion of how to confront CO2 emissions and the consequences.

The science side of this is not simple, but it is probably solvable if we invest in the research. Newt Gingrich last week addressed his remarks to aerospace workers in Florida. His audience was an enormously talented group of people capable of sending a man to the moon, launching space stations and fixing Hubble on the fly. This group and others like it could redirect their energies to the issues of global warming and to finding non-warming energy alternatives.

The politics of alternative energy and the political will to find solutions are just as important as the technology. Listen to the debate. Who is going to do anything positive? The energy companies will spend billions to tell you it’s no problem, or that they really want to solve the problem. What they really want is to continue their profits.

They contribute heavily to politicians who support their views. As informed citizens, we must reject the claims of the fossil fuel industries and also reject the politicians who are supported by them.

Steve Curry


Which founders?

Dismayed? Yes, I am dismayed and suggest that Mr. Dengel (“Dismayed, not angry,” Jan. 26) review his history.

Which Founding Fathers would he quote? Those who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony, whom we call the original settlers, were convinced that the state must actively prevent error in religion.

The rules were so strict that Quakers attempting to settle in the colony were imprisoned for their beliefs. Roger Williams, though a God-fearing man, was banished for speaking his mind.

After facing deportation back to England, he left the colony to start another in what became Providence, R.I. It was here that the American concept of the separation of church and state began. Mr. Williams’ ideas were the bedrock of Thomas Jefferson’s input in the Constitution.

A recent article in Smithsonian magazine explains this revolutionary concept. Mr. Williams, it says, believed that we could not always prevent error in religion because God’s law was being interpreted by people, and people would inevitably err.

He thought that any form of forced worship was contrary to God’s teachings. He feared that religion would be corrupted by enforcement of church laws by the government, not the other way around. The compact he helped write for the colony makes no mention of God at all.

And if you really want to see a form of communism at work, look at how the early colonists set up their land use. One of the first priorities, along with building the church, was to establish a common area where anyone could graze their animals and conduct public events. It was called the village green.

Beverley Prentice Robertson

Editor’s note: Ms. Robertson describes herself as a descendant of several of the colonists of Providence and a practicing Unitarian-Universalist.


No profile in courage

Apparently many of the crew aboard the cruise ship Costa Concordia, which grounded off the coast of Tuscany, attempted to save their own lives without trying to help others.

That sort of selfish conduct is in direct contrast to what happened aboard the RMS Titanic 100 years ago. After that ship struck an iceberg, its captain ordered a women and children first evacuation policy, which the crew assiduously followed. And so did the passengers, who were on a ship with lifeboats that could accommodate only a little over half of those on board.

Benjamin Guggenheim spent his final hours changing into formal evening wear in order to die with dignity as a gentleman. Isador Straus (the co-owner of Macy’s) was offered a chance to get into a lifeboat because of his advanced age but he refused. John Jacob Astor IV helped load his pregnant wife onto a lifeboat and then stepped back to join the rest of the men on the Titanic’s deck.

The crew of the ship also behaved courageously. The engineers and assistant engineers stuck to their posts and kept the power on and lights burning until almost the very last moment. All 34 of them perished. The vessel’s eight-man orchestra kept playing their music to keep the passengers from panicking, only stopping when the incline of the ship made further playing impossible. They also did not survive.

And the Titanic’s captain, in the great tradition of the sea, went down with his ship.

Courage and discipline were in great evidence among those on board the Titanic the night the ship took its final plunge. Sadly, these two character traits were in short supply in the Costa Concordia tragedy.

Martin Levinson