Email letters, April 14, 2014

GJHS administrators didn’t use best-practice evaluation process

The teachers association actively works to ensure that every student in District 51 is taught by an effective teacher. Reaching the status of “effective educator” is difficult to achieve, and those who cannot reach this status are rightfully coached out of the school district on a regular basis with the support of the Mesa Valley Education Association.

For the sake of every student and teacher in our district, it is critical that we have a best-practice evaluation process to determine the effectiveness of a teacher. Teachers, administrators and our local school board partnered from 2005 to 2010 to develop and adopt a cutting-edge evaluation process, which has been used with great success to both sort and support our teachers. When used with fidelity, there is never a question of whether a teacher is effective or ineffective.

It is exceedingly rare for the teachers association to challenge a teacher’s dismissal. In fact, in the past 10 years it has only happened twice, which speaks to the integrity of the D51 administration and the success of our evaluation process. However, in our recent challenge, we strongly believe that the evaluation process was not adhered to, and that was substantiated by the judge’s findings which stated, “In reality, the administration only paid lip service to the formats of the evaluation process and did not carry it out in substance.” Because the evaluation process wasn’t followed, it would be impossible to make a determination about the teacher’s performance.

Parents, students, teachers and the community at large all have an interest in D51 administrators demonstrating fidelity to our best-practice evaluation process. It is at the very heart of our schools’ ability to effectively educate the future leaders in our community.

This letter is on behalf of the executive council of the Mesa Valley Education Association.

DARREN A. COOK
, President
Mesa Valley Education Association
Grand Junction


Legislators who squelched HB14-1154 maintained gross inequity for faculties of community colleges

The Community College Pay and Benefits Equity Act of 2014, HB14-1154, sought to stem the loss of quality faculty within the Colorado Community College System, including Colorado Northwestern Community College and 12 other community colleges. It did not address the Colorado Mountain College system, although passage of the bill might have alerted administrators of that system to treat its faculty equitably. The appropriations committee voted 9-4 against the bill. Legislators who voted for it vowed to take up the issue in the next session.

Sentinel readers need to know that of its $576-milllion in annual revenues, less than 11 percent goes to the 4,000+ professors who teach the vast majority of all classes the system offers (between 65 percent-85 percent, the percentage varying by campus). This faculty majority lives in poverty (average wage, $18,500) in a
working environment of contempt not only for their work but also, by extension, for the students they serve. Meanwhile the CCCS has hired two new administrators per day for the past several years and has embarked on a multi-million-dollar building spree. Fully benefited custodians working in college hallways earn more than twice the wages of the CCCS faculty majority. Students in the community colleges are watching working professionals, deeply in debt, teach while ill and for peanuts. Those who should be modeling the benefits of higher education are themselves using food banks, receiving subsidized health care and utility bill assistance, and they qualify for subsidized housing.

The bill was not too costly for adoption. The state’s Joint Budget Committee ranked finances of the CCCS nearly twice as healthy as any other higher education system in Colorado, as the CCCS has now $299 million in reserves. The bill’s fiscal note did not dip into reserves or require any cutting of programs. The measure recommended only slowing the growth in the many categories of student services, construction, institutional support, etc. Instead of considering any of the recommendations of the bill, committee members were unduly influenced by lobbyists and six-figure-earning college presidents. Students will continue to lose great teachers. Those who remain will be distracted by working other jobs to make ends meet. Students will pay the price, even while they pay tuition. Even so, many of the committee took time during the hearing to chastise adjunct professors who teach the majority of classes (24,570 CCCS classes), saying teaching those courses are not real jobs and that those who teach them should go out and get real jobs.

When presented with the facts and the testimony from hundreds of its working college professors, lawmakers on the Appropriations committee voted 9-4 against them and the quality teaching they deliver, leaving students twisting in the wind. Some committee members expressed resentment being tasked with decision-making on the matter. To hear any elected lawmaker claim that the Colorado Community College system should not be accountable to legislature that funds it should be a wake-up call to all Coloradans.

CAPRICE LAWLESS

Professor, English and Communications
Front Range Community College
President, FRCC Chapter, American Assoc. of Univ. Professors
Louisville


Veterans should not be political pawns

Our legislators in Washington must stop playing politics with our veterans. This is especially true of Vietnam war veterans. Will the game-playing carry over to our veterans of present-day wars? Will they too become pawns? Veterans have few friends in Washington. Just like the Vietnam veterans, today’s veterans will face what we are up against — little to no support.

When our men and women in uniform come home from conflicts abroad, they are met by the news media, handshakes by politicians and photo ops. Parades are organized by veterans groups for a “Welcome Home.” Most of these veterans groups comprise Vietnam vets; they make up for the welcome home they did not receive. The Vietnam war offered them only shame, and they are forgotten.  

“A nation that forgot its fighters and defenders will itself be forgotten”  — President Calvin Coolidge.

Many veterans suffer with cancer, brain injury and/or post traumatic stress disorder. Normally these diseases are not noticed and in some cases go untreated until they become severe. Our Congress needs to wake up and provide equitable VA benefits.

The American people are urged to write, call their members of Congress and Senate and demand they take positive action to provide VA benefits to those in need.

JOHN J. BURY

U.S. Navy, retired
Vietnam veteran
Media, Pa.

Those voting for a living are overwhelming those who work for a living

I see a lot of press locally about how the ACA, the IRS, the EPA and the government in general are affecting our lives. Our economy is suffering, our rights to run our family and business lives our own way and our general well-being is being eroded by government policy.

It seems many people who work for a living are being overwhelmed by those that VOTE for a living. Putting into office folks with the mindset of “It’s all right to enact a policy as long as somebody else has to pay for it, like those evil business owners or that group of people that doesn’t like how we think just because we want things they have to pay for.”

Where are you heads, people? When did it become wrong in society to be successful and want to provide for your family without having to raise the rest of society up without their participation other than to suckle at government programs? Remember that when you vote.  Remind your elected officials of it regularly. Say something. Life’s messy; get dirty!

RICHARD BRIGHT
Grand Junction

Nevada rancher raising cattle on public lands is stealing

No! Tell me it isn’t so. Surely Cliven Bundy in Nevada does not have the right to raise his cattle on our public lands year after year for free. And then people in support of his theft show up with guns to threaten our public servants, the BLM employees, who are removing the animals.

This is so wrong. Shame on Bundy for stealing natural resources from U.S. citizens.

KAYLA DODSON
Grand Junction

BLM exerts police power even though it has no right to do so

After reading through the Sentinel this Sunday, I found two articles of extreme interest to Western Slope residents. I enjoyed reading about the sage-grouse tours and what is already being done to protect and enhance the population of these curious birds by the people of the state of Colorado. In another section, I read about how the BLM had “abruptly” ended the seizure of cattle and backed away from the controversy of public land use on a southern Nevada ranch.

What I am concerned most about is the perceived police power the BLM is apparently exercising on lands that they have no law enforcement authority. Are we looking at the same situations here on the Western Slope when the feds declare the sage-grouse “endangered” and add it to the infamous endangered species list? Will the ranchers, energy industry or public in general be met with armed BLM rangers, helicopters and even snipers when they try to access public lands where the sage-grouse “might” inhabit? One of the main reasons the feds cite as the cause of the seizure of the Nevada
land is an “endangered” tortoise.

I know numerous issues surround the Nevada situation. I also know the federal land agencies serving the Western Slope are being pressured by fanatical environmentalists and politicians to seize more and more control over our public lands through new land-use plans and restrictive land-use declarations. A wise man once said: Beware of those who don’t study their history because they are bound to repeat it. Round two of the Sage Brush Rebellion came very close to becoming violent in Nevada last week.

JAMES O’MALLEY
Grand Junction

Consider plight of children who must breathe tobacco smoke in vehicles
   
April is National Child Abuse Month with the government website definition, “Physical abuse is physical injury as a result of hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or otherwise harming a child.”

A few years ago, my 11-year-old foster son told me how he had to crawl under the blanket in the back of the van to prevent breathing his mother’s cigarette smoke on their Maine to Florida trip.

“Child should ‘not’ be exposed to cigarette smoke,” a Florida physician wrote this script for my three-year-old foster son that was suffering with Reactive Airway Disease and required a nebulizer.

Recently, as a substitute 6th grade teacher in a Metro-Denver school district with 13 percent Caucasians, 76 of 82 students I polled have ridden in a vehicle with an adult smoking.
My social network question, “‘Yes or No,’ smoking with a child in the vehicle is child abuse,” gathered 18 adult “Yes” votes to 2 “No” votes.

It is past time for technology, health and humanity to think outside the box and equip vehicles with a device to prevent strapped-in children from the undertow of child-harming, toxic tobacco smoke.

MIKE SAWYER
Denver

Conservatives want rule of law only when it fits their purpose

Whenever a person from Mexico crosses the border illegally, tea party members and other conservatives quickly yell,  “We are a country with respect for the rule of law.”

On the other hand, when ranchers trespass on federal land and refuse to pay grazing fees, these same persons are up in arms defending freeloaders with their rifles. Does this mean that the rule of law only applies to conservatives if it fits their purpose?  It certainly seems that way.

JOSE U. LUCERO
Grand Junction

Navy SEALS, others had better beware if Pennington’s elected

What fun it is to be a spectator of Mesa County politics! Instead of offering a candidate with qualifications to manage a jail or supervise a team of crime scene investigators or make sure the county is fully prepared for natural or man-made disasters, the Republicans want to provide us with a “constitutional” sheriff — one who will defend us against the evils of the EPA, BLM, IRS, TSA, FDA, SSA and NSA, and let’s not forget the FFA and PTA!

What better place than Mesa to raise an army of fat, old, loud-mouth white men, pumped up and full of bravado after listening tto endless hours of El Rush-bo on the radio. You Navy SEALs and Army Rangers and Secret Service agents better be shaking in your boots, soon-to-be Sheriff Pennington is “coming after ya.”

If John Pennington wants to run for something and entertain us, I suggest he try out for Porky Pig in a production of “Looney Tunes.”

DOUG HOOGEVEEN
Clifton

Leave our precious monument in its pristine, fragile condition

The Sentinel’s front-page celebration of a draft bill to establish a national park at the monument neglected to mention more than 1,500 signatures on petitions opposing this change. The lack of support for designation expressed by previous online comments and for town hall meetings (one of which had 90 attendees) has not discouraged the promoters, because they are convinced the local opponents are in need of “educating.”

The “facts” they have presented, such as economic statistics (based on much larger national parks), along with their belief the monument deserves to be upgraded despite its small size, have merely convinced us that those forcing this redesignation on a reluctant populace arrogantly assume only they know what’s best for our community.

They want us to believe they can prevent any future negative impacts by the draft’s “no change” caveats, a wish list designed to remove local opposition to a national park. Opponents are to naïvely expect these promises to remain in the law as passed by Congress. Even if these restrictions were to survive the process, why would anyone trust the current administration to enforce any law as written?

If a community located immediately adjacent to a national park is negatively impacted in the future, by the EPA’s draconian air standards around national parks, or by the Department of Interior’s canceling of nearby oil and gas leases, where do we go to complain? At a time when the IRS, BLM, EPA and NSA have shown nonchalant abuse of their power, why would we expect these agencies even in future administrations to comply with any restrictions in this law?

The monument terrain is fragile, the wildlife easily threatened and the narrow roads precipitous. If it is internationally promoted, it could deteriorate just as Zion has. Leave it be, so it can remain pristine and beautiful.

DARLENE GSELL

Grand Junction



COMMENTS

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Ms Dodson had you known the FACTS before writing you just might have been effective. Bundy’s lease goes back to the 1800’s. He has nary a problem with paying he just wants to pay it to Clark County and not the feds. His lease is not with the feds. Furthermore over 80% of Nevada is controlled/owned by the feds. Hmmmmm. Harry Reid ring a bell?

D. Hoogeveen—if I start listening to Rachael GAY Maddow will I become full of bravado on the side of Steve King. Maybe I should switch to Hanna-Barbera and lasso up ol Quick Draw McGraw.

Dear Jose I refer you to my response to Ms. Dodson. Your beef compares illegal immigrants to American Citizens. Those citizens have the right to peaceful demonstration. Just ask hillary.

Touchee John Bury. Thanks for your service.

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