Subsequent to our Oct. 9 “In Focus” story about the conflict between Westfield malls and their janitors, it has come to CityBeat's attention that a National Labor Relations Board investigation into charges filed against Building One Service Solutions by janitorial workers at a Westfield mall in Roseville, Calif. has, in fact, been closed per Building One's agreement to allow workers access to union information. However, this ruling pertains to the Roseville mall only and has no effect on Building One employees in San Diego.
I don't believe you know what you are talking about regarding San Diego City Schools [Cover story, Oct. 2]. First of all, you need to speak with those who are able to produce the results with children in the multicultural environment: meaning taking low performers and bringing them up to world-class standards. Have you talked with anyone like that or do those who listen to the beat of the city not know how to discern?
Second, if you didn't know, this has been going on for a long time and Alan Bersin is one of the heroes who has brought in world-class teachers to teach the failures that we have in San Diego, but many of these teachers are reprobate in their behavior and would rather rebel and be arrogant rather than learn from those who perform well.
Third, you need to understand the corrupt democratic system in California. We have over $8,000 to spend on each student, but the corrupt politicians use this money for their interests. For example, take $8,000 and multiply it 20 times for 20 kids per class room. Now with $160,000 you could by a world-class teacher in each subject and have a lot leftover, but you have a collective-bargaining agreement in California that means you can't get rid of these bad teachers. So you're tied with a corrupt legal and bureaucratic system.
So what does Alan Bersin do? Train what we have with the best in the nation; people like Marie Clay, Lucy McCormick Calkins, Shelly Harwane. Do you know who these superstars are? Probably not, because when you are from the city, you listen to the grapevine but have trouble doing the research for yourself. Marie Clay is the most well known world researcher on reading. She is from New Zealand that has a 98 percent literacy rate. Ohio State University produces doctorates specializing in this research, and Hillary Clinton, who is knowledgeable regarding child development wrote about Reading Recovery in It Takes A Village.
Rather than bad mouthing Alan Bersin, why don't you visit a Reading Recovery Class Room in the inner city in San Diego. Lucy McCormack Calkins teaches research at Columbia University and her teacher researchers produce world-class standards. Did you know that Alan Bersin has brought teachers from San Diego to multicultural classrooms that produce world-class standards. Did you know that world-class teachers have been brought to teach the teachers at the schools with poor achievers and it has been very successful with those teachers who are competent and filled with God's loving kindness for their children. Shelly Harwane was the principle to the Manhattan New School, a school of low performers that took the best research in reading and writing and is now second in the state of New York.
My wife is a teacher, and I love her for it. She spent our first eight years of marriage working from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. six days a week. She didn't strike with the mob. She went in and made her own curriculum from scratch in her first year and took her classroom that was one year behind to the 99th percentile. Fifty percent is average. This year her school is in the top 10 percent of the state. Not bad when you consider that when she began five years ago, they were at the bottom 20 percent.
My wife is a great reader on teacher research and she works very hard. Please don't listen to the stupid teachers who do not perform well. Find those who are producing the results at a world-class level with the same population of kids. The children are our heritage and they deserve the best we can give them, not worst.
Harry Miller San Diego
Note to Sonja Taylor
Sonja, reading about you and your work at Gompers Secondary School in San Diego CityBeat [Cover story, Oct. 2] literally gave me dancing feet. The words written about you weren't many, compared to the whole, but your section of the story sure energized my soul.
I related to you right away when I read about how tough it had been for you, as a teacher, to keep a bunch of kids engaged for two hours. Been there. And reading further I found that we have something else in common. We have each discovered somewhere along the way that an educator's creativity is best used in finding the relevancy between a student's life experiences and the lessons to be learned.
I can just picture the light popping on in your mind as you realized, “Hey, you know, maybe I could reach these young people through rap music, considering that approximately 99.999 percent of them are easing down the street to a funky beat, ears hooked to little radios, moving their bodies from their heads to the toes of their ‘sea walking' feet, reciting Nelly and Eve and Eminem and all the rest of them who sell rap and hip-hop CDs by the tens of millions.”
I know the feeling. My eyes opened up to what learning is about back in the '60s when “teachable moments” multiplied like rabbits. I didn't have to sweat a lesson plan. Not with Vietnam and JF and RFK in their heyday along with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Not with the Beatles making the girls scream and James Brown making my people sing, “I'm Black and I'm proud!” which was a needed theme. As the world was rearranging, Bob Dylan broke it down with, “The times they are a changing.” I just had to keep up with what was up.
And, like you and your students, we debated the pros and cons of the topics of the day. We soaked up as much learning as we could find along the way, rapping about everything from Jim Crow to whether or not animals were treated humanely in the rodeo.
And, also like you and your students, we discovered the power of language. We wrote. We read. We sang. We danced. We performed. We went way beyond what the Curriculum Guide laid out. The world was our lab and analyzing it was what we were all about. We had a good time, too. And I sense that the same could be said about your students and you.
Ain't it simple, when it comes down to it? Are there any other ways to do it? I mean, I've found, generally speaking, that when students come to know that you care enough about them to meet them in their world and make their lessons relevant to that very world, you can teach them many things. You can make their classrooms sing.
Sonja, you are sharing something quite special with your students. A dynamic learning environment steeped with ideas that expose life's depths and complexities, its ups and its downs, its nuances. I'm grateful that Kelly Davis wrote about you. Keep the faith. Gompers is so fortunate to have you. Teach on!
Ernie McCray, Golden Hill
Regarding your article “‘All good things...'” [“Locals Only,” Oct. 2]. Troy Johnson did a fine job of pointing out the obvious: San Diego radio is a wasteland.
Certainly 92/1FM was small, but it was also quite a few things the rest of San Diego radio was not, namely, unique. I didn't love every song, but I tuned in for the local music, which is ignored elsewhere on the radio dial. Michael Halloran is a decent guy with a good ear for what is going to click with his audience.
The thought of reviving the MIXX format is about as appealing as hearing the Infiniti Disco will re-open in Mission Valley. Is there a station left to fight against “Clear Channel's dominance of San Diego radio” that Johnson wrote about? Art Astor forgot that 49-year-old car dealers, or any advertiser, will buy into whatever is selling.
I suppose this means we can all expect more tripe on the airwaves and inane banter on the dial in the weeks and months to come. Leaving San Diego was the right choice. As the Penetrators once said, “Livin' is dyin' in this nuthin' town.”
Barry Benintende, Springfield, Mo.
Letter from Spain
I read your article on the Westfield/ Building One relationship, or so-called lack of [In Focus, Oct. 9]. I, as a member of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice in San Diego and writing from Spain, am amazed at how long Westfield can play “Pilate” and wash their hands of the sin committed in their malls. If I were there now I would call for a citywide boycott of Westfield, promoting malls and businesses that play fair with workers. Unfortunately I am but one voice in the desert of Europe clamoring for justice.
I am about to make a 30-day silent retreat, part of a Jesuit's training for final vows. The article gives me one more thing to bring to God in prayer. I pray that by Nov. 20, the day we get back here, that enough pressure has been put on Westfield to get rid of Building One “Mis-Services” and negotiate fairly with the union so that workers receive right treatment, which is what biblical justice is about. Given that the holiday season is but a month away, I hope you document exactly how many workers are laid off or unlawfully terminated by Building One so that no bonuses have to be paid. Just watch and see. It happens every year.
Workers of San Diego, you are not forgotten.
Rev. Eduardo A. Samaniego, S.J., Former Pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church