DAHA must adapt to changing times

Front page news: large hockey player decline ("Duluth youth hockey participation drops").

This is something many of us have known for years. A large decline in

student enrollment will lead to a decline in potential hockey players. The Duluth Amateur Hockey Association, or DAHA, seems to have the same

mentality as the Duluth School District. Neither seem able to accept that the Duluth area is not growing.

Change is constant. DAHA Executive Director Clark Coole should understand that what took place years ago is not a barometer of what will take place today. DAHA needs to be member-friendly if it expects to survive, rather than the director claiming that parents are selfish not to encourage their children to play hockey. Insulting the potential membership is not the best way to attract players.

As a former hockey parent and

treasurer, having to collect funds, I can say with certainty the sport is very expensive. It is very difficult for many parents to afford the sport; in today's economy, it is even more difficult.

Change should occur with regard to time investment and the large expense. DAHA could consider non-traveling teams that just play in the city of Duluth, without travel to all parts of the state of Minnesota. How about practice twice a week and just one or two games a week, with time leftover for the kids to just be kids?

Maybe if the kids and parents were having fun, numbers would increase. I think bringing back local rivalries would be a good idea. Restoring pride in being city champion seems preferable to traveling to the Twin Cities to lose by 10 or more goals.

Joe Kleiman

Duluth

Raising teacher performance is paramount in our schools

Substantiating a position by asserting an insider's knowledge usually means the argument is flawed. David McGrath's commentary last month, "Governor's education reform a diversion from what's really needed," was no exception.

McGrath claimed that "an educator like me knows" that raising teacher qualifications has no impact on student achievement. He referenced a National Research Council report that only referred to a certification process for current teachers, not the education or hiring of teachers.

That contradicted a 2007 report by McKinsey & Company titled, "How the world's best school systems come out on top." McKinsey found that in the top-performing systems, such as South Korea and Finland, teacher status and entrance requirements to college were paramount. In Finland, teachers must now possess a master's degree. In South Korea, teachers are recruited from the top 5 percent of their classes. In the U.S., most teachers come from the bottom third of college-bound graduates.

McGrath emphasized early childhood education, referring to a Rand Corporation study. McKinsey reported no evidence of early childhood education leading to world-class results. Recent studies in Britain -- including "Earlier not better," published Sept. 11 in The Economist -- reached no conclusion on the impact of early education. Top-performing countries such as Australia, Finland and even Canada send children to school later (age 7 in Finland) than the developed world average, and have shorter school days.

Teaching is a difficult career and there are many dedicated, intelligent teachers. Low entry requirements, higher teacher numbers and non-performing programs do nothing to honor them. Instead, perhaps in the U.S., we need only to look at our country's world-beating universities. College instructors are subject-matter experts, and graduates at the tops of their classes. As well, college applicants have choices. None of those facts are anything McGrath or Education Minnesota want voters or parents to consider.

Dennis Dunham

Duluth

Selling Central is red plan's expensive tradeoff

I was curious to find out how much money the new western middle school was going to cost, and now I see it is estimated as $48 million. Wow! Thank goodness the School Board is wise enough to plan to sell the Central High School site for $10 million.

Umm, wait a minute. Central High School will possibly fetch $10 million and the School Board will spend

$48 million on a brand new middle school? Where is the logic in that?

Why is this School Board so determined not to consider the Central High School site as an option for a middle school? Since Central High School is one of the newer school buildings in Duluth, has the most acreage of any of the high schools, has a football field and track, tennis courts, softball field and baseball field and plenty of parking space, it should be a no-brainer. This School Board is making short-sighted and wasteful decisions with the red plan that are going to prove costly to every property owner in the city of Duluth for many years to come.

And now we have the operating revenue referendum coming up in November.

The School Board has little choice in this matter since the law states there must be a referendum. But be sure to notice the way the School Board has formatted the referendum question. What the board seems intent on doing is fooling the citizens of Duluth into at least assuring the present levy amount be continued by breaking up the referendum into three yes-and-no questions. Voters should please realize that to finally have their voices heard by the School Board they must vote no, no, no on the referendum questions. Any other vote would pass the referendum.

Deb Putney

Duluth

Vote yes on ballot questions for Duluth schools levy

I am writing to encourage Duluth residents to vote yes, yes and yes on the upcoming school district levy questions.

My children, long graduated from Duluth Public Schools, benefitted from the excellent education provided there. Like all parents of ISD 709 graduates, I want current and future students to have the same educational opportunities my children relied on as a foundation for their success.

Like many families in Duluth, mine has experienced the financial strains of higher energy bills, layoffs and economic uncertainty. Despite such challenges, however, or perhaps because of them, I am committed to making the needed investments in our community's children.

We are all being asked to bank on tomorrow's future, to keep our educational programs strong so every child learns what he or she needs to learn to become successful citizens. I urge all residents to vote yes, yes and yes on Nov. 4.

Donna Gerdes

Duluth

Workers need to reorganize unions to preserve economy

In my letter published in the July 1 News Tribune, I wrote, in part, that "time is running out for capitalism." With the present financial crisis, it could be an indicator that that point is close at hand.

As Marx said, "Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to gain."

If catastrophe is to be averted, it is the working class that must take action, abandon its present craft unions and organize industrial unions.

ROSS SCHELIN

DULUTH

Cannabis, like alcohol, doesn't deserve prohibition

Yes, I'll raise a toast to those wise Minnesotans who realized the errors of the Volstead Act and ended Prohibition with the 21st Amendment!

While reading David Hanson's commentary on Oct. 7 ("why Minnesotans came to despise Prohibition,") I mused: Why do Minnesotans with such wisdom, or any Americans, allow the ongoing prohibition of cannabis? The dynamics of yesterday's alcohol prohibition parallel the problems of today's marijuana prohibition, and we pay dearly. Prohibition does not "reduce crime, improve health, raise morality and protect young people" any more with marijuana than with alcohol. As the experience with alcohol prohibition shows, the approach makes good citizens into criminals, and numerous conflicts arise with the unregulated commodities. Prohibition of cannabis solves little while causing great public harm. Cannabis provides medicine, fuel, food, industrial feedstock as well as a benign recreational drug.

The prohibition of marijuana keeps a $36 billion industry in the underground instead of being regulated for safety and taxation. It restricts the hemp agri-industry, which once was a traditional and lucrative mainstay of American agriculture and economy. Today, the legalization of cannabis would give relief to the U.S. economy by an application of the trickle-up theory and by reducing unnecessary drug-war expenses.

Imagine what it would be like if America's problems with tobacco were addressed with the imprisonment of the users.

It is time to bring the destructive prohibition of cannabis to an end.

I would like to see a presidential candidate like Theodore Roosevelt. During his 1932 campaign he vowed to end Prohibition. And on Dec. 5, 1933, his promise was kept.

David Hopkins

Duluth

Lawn sign vandals do not espouse patriotism

I have a message for those citizens who choose to wipe their feet on the First Amendment by vandalizing political lawn signs: Whatever else you may be, patriots you're not.

JUDY HOLTE

DULUTH

Companies should have some care for loyal workers

The business world today is drastically changing right before our eyes, and there are many who feel helpless in these times. Keep in mind this is only my opinion, but it seems to me that if a company is going to sell and close its doors, should there not be a moral obligation to inform the employees who have been trusted and loyal workers? Also, in negotiating a sale, shouldn't consideration for future employment of the already knowledgeable employees factor in as well?

Howard Waste had been around for more than 57 years. Recently, the company was sold, and the doors closed on a family-owned business -- and on all those the company employed, including some who had been there 27 years ("Twin Ports trash haulers fight for Howard Waste customers," Oct. 4). Waste Management bought the company and, of course, just like after many sales in corporate America, planned to restructure for a profitable future. Obviously, offering employment to existing drivers wasn't what was deemed profitable. If one were to ask "why," there are only answers behind dollar signs.

Waste Management's corporate headquarters is in Houston. The company has 354 collection operations, 341 transfer stations and

277 active landfill sites. It serves

20 million residential, industrial, municipal and commercial customers. So to have an interest in employees here in Duluth really wouldn't seem too important. I, along with many whom I care about, have been affected by the closing of Howard Waste, and I just have to say kudos to Waste Management for all its success. I hope that in the future it won't eliminate any additional reliable employees just to make a buck.

Amy Garthus

Duluth

Miners should be paid for all of their time worked

Regarding the Oct. 2 story ("Range miner sues over punch-in rule, proposes class-action suit") about a Minntac employee suing over the procedure for punching in for work, which requires hourly paid employees to punch in no later than 6:48 a.m. in order to be paid starting at 7 a.m. and to punch out no earlier than 3:06 p.m. to be paid until 3 p.m.: The lawsuit was long overdue.

My father has been working for U.S. Steel for 35 years, and it is the only job he has held. About a month ago, we were talking about their punch-in requirements, and I couldn't believe it. Fifty-two weeks in a year multiplied by two extra hours of work equals 104 unpaid hours of work each year. Multiply those by three years (since the new punch-in procedure began in 2005), and that's 312 hours of work my father has not been paid for over his years of service to U.S. Steel and Minntac. That equals almost $2,000 per year he as been shorted by a company to which he devoted all his working life.

Miners are some of the hardest workers, and they do some of the dirtiest, most dangerous work. I am glad someone finally brought this situation to the forefront. To be forced to spend two extra hours a week unpaid on company grounds is absolutely preposterous.

It is a perfect example of how the big guys have cheated the little guys throughout all of history!

Laura Vake

Chisholm

Officials should spend time in teachers' place

How many times have the governor, commissioner of education, superintendent of schools, School Board members and university professors who teach education classes visited elementary and high school classrooms -- and actually spent time in them? And spending time does not mean a tour of the school and 10 minutes in a few classrooms.

If they had to spend a day in teachers' shoes, they would have an eye-opening and valuable learning experience. Hopefully, they would learn not to make mandates without adequate funding and set impossible learning expectations. Hopefully, they'd learn what it actually takes to educate a child.

They would see hard-working teachers trying to learn the needs of many children so they can be taught well, even if they are in an overcrowded classroom. They'd see teachers trying to find extra time to help children who need extra assistance, but who too often can't get it because the school does not have a certain percentage of free hot lunches. They'd see teachers trying to teach children how to listen, follow directions, be respectful, have manners, share and learn to work with others. And they'd see teachers dealing with the many situations that arise during any day.

I think part of the job description for the above-mentioned officials should be: Must visit a classroom for a full day at least four times a year. Maybe then they'd understand and see what teachers need to give students well-rounded educations -- and not cut funds that are so needed, especially ones that affect children. Maybe then they wouldn't always lay blame for educational shortcomings on those who teach.

Evdoxia Gerogeorge

Duluth

Teachers do more than teach

There have already been several letters commenting on Gov. Tim Pawlenty's education reform plans (Our View: "Gov. sparks firestorm on education," Sept. 23), but I felt compelled to add my opinion.

I am a retired educator, having been an active teacher for 34 years. I may be retired, but as all educators would say, I'm an educator for life. We feel a commitment to the profession with the same passion we had while we were active.

I saw several things wrong with the governor's plan and could write columns, but the point of this letter is his wanting "experts" from other fields to come in and teach. We hear there is a shortage of teachers, but in actuality, there are many excellent, highly qualified teachers in Minnesota without jobs. Eliminating positions in Minnesota school districts is rampant with decreasing state funding. Young people who want to teach are leaving the state. So now Pawlenty wants to bring in people without teaching degrees to take the few jobs that are available.

Why do we have teaching degrees? It is because there are people interested in educating the whole person, people interested in "kids," not just subject matter.

In my last years of teaching, I spent almost as much time listening to "needy" students as presenting material. Teacher-education programs teach us to consider physical development, social development and cognitive development, as well as cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. We are more than purveyors of knowledge, especially today. As other letter writers indicated, Pawlenty needs to spend some time in a classroom -- and not a hand-picked classroom -- to experience the life of a teacher.

Teachers are also asked to be social workers, psychologists, doctors, mediators and surrogate parents -- but we aren't pretending we should apply for their jobs.

Cheryl J. Smith

Grand Rapids

The writer is a retired Grand Rapids science teacher.