I am the principal of an elementary school that recently decided to eliminate a program that provided free breakfast to all children ["Free For All," November/December]. While well-intentioned, the program caused many problems. Parents would bring their children to school late so that they would not have to participate. Other children would get the tray of food then promptly throw it away.
Plus, the menus consisted of more sugar than is good for children. Because of government standards, federally sponsored breakfast and lunch may now be low in fat, but they seem higher in sugar. Rather than filling our children with nutritional food, we were creating a new problem. The idea of well-fed children reducing our discipline issues was overshadowed by sugar- induced hyperactivity.
Perhaps there are areas of the country that could benefit from such an idea. However, in rural Texas, I find this program is not what it is intended to be.
Comfort Elementary School
The Good Test
I have recently completed the process to qualify for national certification ["O Pioneers!," November/December], and because I have not yet heard the results, I can comment objectively on the value of the portfolio and tests involved.
There were ten sections to the portfolio I completed for certification as an early childhood education generalist. I also completed four 90-minute essays. The portfolio and test prompted me to reflect on the quality of my teaching practices for the past dozen years. It was difficult—at times grueling—work. In the end, I was glad it was over, but I was also very pleased that I had gone through the process-regardless of the results. I learned a great deal about how I teach, and I got the opportunity to decide for myself how I want to improve my teaching practices.
I am not fretting over the results of my certification. If I didn't qualify, I plan to retake whatever portions necessary. In any case, I believe I am a much better teacher for having tried.
October's cover story, "Portrait Of The Reformer As A Young Man," is sheer pap, devoid of substance. The writer, Rich Shea, is more interested in how Bill Wetzel is dressed and what his house looks like than in exactly how Wetzel would reform schools. I agree that the system needs changing, and I agree with the spirit of Wetzel's comments. But what specifically does he want to do? The article pretends to be a "portrait of the reformer." But never does it discuss any tangible reforms. Instead, it is more concerned with peripheral matters such as Wetzel's irrelevant family, Wetzel's irrelevant dress, Wetzel's irrelevant childhood. The article's title should be "Why I Am Enamored of Bill Wetzel." Please, oh please, give us no more of this treacly pap.
Calvert Hall College
Thank you for the heartwarming article on the National Teachers Hall of Fame ["Teacher Town, USA," October]. As a past inductee, I compliment the reporter, David Hill, and photographer, Steve Goldstein, for capturing the genuine affection and reverence the people of Emporia, Kansas, have for educators. It's hard to imagine a better place on earth to celebrate and honor teachers. On behalf of all 45 inductees, I extend sincere appreciation to your publication for bringing the Hall of Fame and the people of Emporia to the national spotlight.
Just Say No
Marijuana is the gateway to hard drugs, and schools are right to protect children against teachers who may have smoked marijuana ["Reefer Madness," August/September]. If teacher Sherry Hearn's son "reeked" of marijuana, certainly she should not be teaching since she cannot control her own household.
Thank you for the article on Alphonse Dattalo ["The Streak," August/September], who has not missed a day of school since he began teaching in 1972. It reminded my of my father, Russell Leuthold, who was a teacher and an administrator for 53 years. He missed only a half day in all those years, in 1961. He retired in 1999.
With all due respect to Alphonse Dattalo, he is only the Ted Williams of the teaching profession. The real Cal Ripken of the classroom is William Pollak of Johnstown, New York. Pollak taught 36 years without an absence. That is roughly 6,480 days.
No question, Dattalo's streak is an incredible feat, but the people who know Bill Pollak know the real deal.
Clary Middle School
Syracuse, New York
In the November/December issue of Teacher Magazine, we reported on several campaigns as part of a package of stories looking at education in the 2000 elections. Here are updates from those campaigns:
Joyce Elliott, the Arkansas teacher profiled in "See Joyce Run," won her race as a Democratic candidate for the state legislature. According to unofficial returns, she collected 5,407 votes, five times more than her opponent, Republican Herbert Broadway.
"Ballot Busters," looked at the bumper crop of education- related citizen initiatives before voters nationwide this fall. In Oregon, the focus of our story, only one such measure passed, an initiative to boost school funding. Seven others failed, including a merit-pay proposal for teachers. Private school voucher initiatives were defeated in Michigan and California, while a ban on bilingual education passed in Arizona. Initiatives for teacher pay raises and reduced class sizes won in Washington state. Colorado and Arizona voters approved measures to increase education spending.