As criticism grows over the awarding of a no-bid contract for school cameras, I believe that this kind of action only exacerbates the racial divisions within the city ("Ammo for critics," Thursday). Philadelphia School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman arbitrarily stopped work being done by one company to give it to a minority firm. A similar decisiion on an earlier project wound up costing the city 12 times the initial $1,000 quoted for schematic drawings of camera placements. If this is against the rules, Ackerman should be disciplined. Credit for pursuing this issue should be given to the various legislators keeping it in sharp focus.
While negative commentary about school district CEO Arlene Ackerman is expected daily, the editorial "Ammo for critics" (Thursday), which claims that her actions may ignite the anti-Philadelphia prejudices of State Rep. Paul Clymer (R., Bucks), is outrageous.
Those elected to serve in Harrisburg have a responsibility to provide equitable funding for Philadelphia schools regardless of who is in charge. The notion that Clymer, or any other state representative, has the right to question the need to fairly fund city schools just because there isn't universal agreement on how one minority contractor was chosen is absurd. I suggest Clymer focus his efforts on reforming Pennsylvania's flawed school-funding system before he puts any more time into worrying about Ackerman.
The Inquirer merits a greater readership, Philadelphians!
Were it not for this publication, we would not have learned of state Supreme Court Justice Ron Castille's failure to monitor Family Court money.
Carl Greene, former director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, made headlines because of the use of taxpayer money on settlements of sexual-harassment complaints.
More recently, The Inquirer has been alone in examining corruption in the City Commissioners' Office.
And now Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman is being criticized by state legislators for questions about contracts and the suspension of employees suspected of leaking information to the media ("Ammo for critics," Thursday).
Too many public officials, and those paid to oversee their actions, have gone hiding in the miasma of public corruption and voter indifference. The Inquirer - too often alone - represents a voice howling out against the abuses of public office.
In spite of the difficulties, The Inquirer has done a good job over the years in its coverage of the controversy surrounding the first presidential residence and the issue of slavery ("Site open to honor presidents, slaves," Thursday). However, one fact that should be emphasized more is that in 1781, Pennsylvania's legislative assembly became the first governing body in human history to outlaw slavery. It was far from perfect. For example, it did not abolish slavery all at once, but rather over time, and it allowed citizens of other states to bring their slaves into Pennsylvania, which is why George Washington was able to bring his slaves here.
If a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step, this was that step, one of which Pennsylvanians should feel proud, and one that deserves mention.
Your usual perspicacity on education slipped a little on the editorial "Up to Teachers" (Tuesday). Yes, surveys on education and educators do need to be taken with a "dose of reality," but teachers do not stand alone in the front of classrooms. School boards make decisions about education when they cut teachers' salaries, music classes, and arts programs, while pouring money into sports programs and extracurricular events. Principals make decisions about education when they fail to support outstanding teachers and their exemplary classroom work, or diminish the spirits of good teachers with poor management decisions, and insist on ill-conceived teaching schedules.
No, it is not only "up to teachers." Creative and supportive education leadership is absolutely necessary. Show me an outstanding school and you find an outstanding principal standing squarely behind that outstanding teacher. Holding administrators' and teachers' feet to the fire are the essential parts of the solution to improving our public schools.
Thomas M. Ricks
Recently a construction crew left a large metal plate covering a hole at the intersection of 13th and Spruce. The plate was not secured, and so it rattled very loudly throughout the night each time a car passed over it. The next morning I contacted Roger Fey, chief enforcement officer of Philadelphia's Air Management Services, about the plate, and he immediately had a team investigate. By the end of the day, the plate was secured. No more noise. Roger and his team have long supported our efforts to keep neighborhood noise down to reasonable levels. My deepest thanks to this fine team of professionals for their prompt and effective action.