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Newcomer happy about boycott!

To the Editor:

I am an artist, a writer and a new resident here in Colorado Springs. When my fiance got a job offer in Colorado Springs and asked me if I would consider moving here with her from Fort Worth, Texas, she did so tentatively. She warned me that the place, although beautiful, also served as home base for a multitude of right-wing conservative Christian groups. She thought that I might not fit in.

I remember telling her that as long as we could still buy beer and go out to see the occasional R-rated movie, I really couldn't care less if the Melvins ruled the roost. In fact, I said, being a "creative type" in a community overrun with Religious Right nuts might just be a lot of fun. I mean, an artist is always better off if he or she can be at least a tiny bit of a burr in somebody's shorts, right? Something to react to, react against, subvert, or just plain laugh at is always a good stimulant to creativity.

So, a couple of weeks ago we moved ourselves on out here to lovely Colorado Springs. And I have to say that at first I was rather disappointed. Except for suffering from chronic rubbernecking on their highways and looking a bit more weather-beaten due to the desert climate, the people here in our new home didn't seem all too different from those I'd left back in Texas. Where were all the right-wing, anti-free speech, anti-homosexual, religious zealots I'd heard so much about? I felt gypped.

Imagine my relief when I picked up your alternative newsweekly and discovered that just such a group, American Family Association, led by a Mr. Tom Pedigo, was planning an advertiser boycott against you! It was like finding out Santa Clause was real and lived in my backyard!

And you guys at the Independent should be happy, too. The attention and focus this toothless boycott will bring to your paper will only make it a stronger publication.

They're doing you a favor. And, even though you may not realize it, you're doing them a favor as well.

You see, no matter what they may say on TV talk shows, Christian love is not the primary motivation for the people in these "religious" groups. Fear is. These groups are magnets for the types who must have an outside enemy in order to feel secure. If the Independent wasn't serving as that enemy, rest assured that someone or something else would be. In fact, if one day these so-called Christian groups did actually succeed in running all "the bad people" out of town, the entire structure of their existence would fall apart. Without a "them" to unite against, groups like the AFA would begin eating their own and self-destruct before you could say "Salem -- 1692."

So you see, by being "the opposition," you guys at the Independent are really doing Mr. Pedigo and his group a great kindness. And isn't that the Christian thing to do?

-- Curtis Martin
Colorado Springs

Reform experiment may penalize children

To the Editor:

Thank you to Bob Campbell and Kathryn Eastburn for well-written and insightful articles that reflect the current phase of education ("Standards Stampede," March 9, and "Ms. Holland's Opus," March 16).

We went through open classroom concepts, freedom of expression, back to basics, etc. Now our children have to suffer through legislated outcomes-based education, as a result of CSAP standards. Unfortunately, the public seems unconcerned, teachers are surprisingly complacent, administrators are resolved, and the teachers union has fully supported the standards.

As a parent, I am worried that my children will not get the education they deserve as they show up for school only to be taught reading, writing and math, since that is all that is on the test. Then they become lab rats as they are subjected to 17 or more days of testing per school year.

I can't help but think that placing scarlet letters on low-economic neighborhood schools, will only cause flight from these schools (making them more "inefficient" and thus subject to closure) and will cause the general public (ie., no kids in school) to lose faith in public schools and therefore clutch their purses ever tighter when schools need money to keep up aging buildings, provide salary increases that keep up with inflation, and replace outdated textbooks, materials and technology.

We are all in for a ride, and only time will tell whether the grand experiment will penalize our children and our public schools.

-- Kari Francisco
Colorado Springs

"D"-school student speaks up

An Open Letter to Governor Owens:

I would like to express my gratitude to you, Governor Owens, for your perspicacity in the matter of the prodigious educational crisis encumbering our nation's children. Your sagacious system of letter grades for schools provides an ingenuous assessment of school performance that categorically disregards extraneous influences such as the inveterate socio-economic disparity that critics cite as the nidus of the distribution of scores.

Moreover, by grading on a curve, your plan insures that a given portion of schools are bound to failure and are concomitantly subject to the implementation of reform through privatization which, despite its dubious statistical success, you deem to be a superior alternative to public schools.

Following the publication of the projected letter grades for D-11 schools in the Gazette recently, I realized, to my consternation, that I had attended a "D" school, Irving Middle School. My experience at Irving indisputably precipitated my subsequent scholastic performance in high school and college.

I am currently a double major at the University of Kansas with a 4.0 G.P.A and a full tuition scholarship. I wonder if the scholarship committee would have given this award to me, a National Merit Scholar with an International Baccalaureate diploma, had they known that I attended a "D" middle school. My fellow alumni from Irving include several IB diploma recipients, a finalist for the Presidential Scholarship and student at Stanford, and a high-achieving freshman at Colorado College who won an all-expense paid trip to Germany for her scores on a national German test and was selected as one of the Gazette's "Best and Brightest." Would you not agree, Gov. Owens, that we Irving alumni exemplify the "D" quality education offered at Irving?

Let me reiterate my thanks. I encourage you to ignore the vitriolic invective of your critics and continue to follow your agenda because you certainly must have a much more comprehensive understanding of education than the many professional educators in this state who oppose your reforms.

-- Dalyn Cook
Colorado Springs

Impossible standards de-value public schools

To the Editor:

It's difficult to understand why William J. Moloney, Colorado Commissioner of Education, said, "These are great days for Colorado education reform." So much is being written about public school "reform" that the truth of the matter is being buried beneath a ton of rhetoric.

"CSAP is a valid measure of student achievement." In his or her grade level, a student has to perform better than 70 percent of other students nationwide to be rated "proficient." (Colorado standards are twice as high as the ones for the Texas test.) For a school to be accredited, 80 percent of its students must at least have this score.

"CSAP is fair." There is a direct and undeniable correlation between the lowest school scores and the highest number of students who live below poverty levels. These public schools are to be punished with derogatory labeling and then will be put on the bidding block to privately controlled agencies. The schools with the highest scores, which are in the wealthiest neighborhoods, will be rewarded with praise and even more money.

"There have been low-income schools like Bessemer Elementary in Pueblo that have raised their CSAP scores." However, Bessemer would have received an "F" on Governor Owens' Safety Rating because the school's suspension rate rose to 27 percent before its CSAP scores increased.

"Charter schools outperformed public schools by up to 16 percent on the CSAP." This is not so surprising when statewide 26 percent (30 percent in El Paso County) of the charter schools didn't report their results. If only the top two-thirds of the public schools' scores were computed, they'd also be much higher.

Ms. Mickey VanDerwerker, a mother of five, was disturbingly accurate when she said, "Pro-voucher politicians set impossibly high standards to discredit public schools." After the public schools have been set up to fail and then have been handed over, buildings and all, to private concerns, what is going to happen to our students who are not among the elite top 30 percent? Who is openly speaking up for them? Certainly not those who call these "great days for Colorado education."

-- T. Christopher Gardner
Colorado Springs

Keep it up, Tao

To the Editor:

Nancy Harley may find it's getting easier and easier to live a vegetarian lifestyle, so, for those of us who live and work downtown, please, tell me where else I can go eat a healthy organic lunch besides the Tao Caf?

The Tao has many old favorites like turkey chili and chicken enchiladas but Nancy says this food is boring. I don't think the Tao is trying to compete with a restaurant like Gertrude's or Adams Mountain, (both great places).

No, just give me good, quick lunch standards at great prices and get me on my way in 30 minutes or less. The best part is, it's healthy and fast. I say keep it up, Tao.

-- Michelle A. Vandepas
Colorado Springs

The value of getting canned

To the Editor:

I always disagree with but enjoy reading Jim Hightower's column. His column on pink slips ("The Sorrow of Corporate Pink Slips," March 16) was especially interesting to me since I have been both fired and done the firing more times than I care to remember.

I was fired from my first four or five careers after college. (I was slow to grasp the concept of work and making a profit for my employer and/or my employer failed to stay ahead of changing economic conditions.)

Later in life, I found my true calling, company owner and founder of small businesses. Unfortunately, I have never quite mastered the art of foretelling the future when it comes to picking the right number and type of employees for my various small corporations. So, on several occasions I have had to "punt the geezers" (both young and old) as Jim Hightower calls us.

It is never a pleasant experience to fire or be fired but it is always gratifying to meet someone you had to "let go" and hear that they have found a better position or gone into business themselves. I have had that experience several times.

That should be the nature of life. We need to learn from our work experiences. No one owes us a living. Each of us needs to do what we can to help others succeed or provide work for others, but in the end each of us is responsible for our own and our family's well being. If I had not been repeatedly fired from my various rather low-paying career positions, I doubt that I would have had the courage to go into business for myself, and I would not have known the challenges of success and failure that that brings.

-- Dale Comyford
Colorado Springs

Wild about Ivywild

To the Editor:

I am a fifth-grade teacher at Stratton Elementary in D-11. Thank you for Kathryn Eastburn's article about Sandy Holland and the ITI model at Ivywild ("Ms. Holland's Opus," March 9).

So often people base their perceptions and beliefs about education on their own experiences in school (or worse yet, on retold experiences of others), but Eastburn obviously saw Ivywild through new eyes. Her article shows the power of "being there" experiences as she developed an understanding of Integrated Thematic Instruction that is deeper and more meaningful than could be acquired by reading about or being told about this model.

I am in my 20th year of teaching and am passionate about ITI. All students should be in schools where the life skills and lifelong guidelines are modeled by adults every day and where the curriculum is developmentally appropriate, relevant and meaningful. By implementing all eight components of this model (absence of threat, meaningful content, choices, adequate time, enriched environment, collaboration, immediate feedback, and mastery), we are able to meet the needs of all students and to prepare responsible, productive citizens.

Thanks again for the time spent at Ivywild and for a truthful article about a success in our public schools.

-- Suzan Crary-Hoover
Colorado Springs

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