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Williams squashed teachers' creativity

Rod Watson blames teachers for not being responsive to the different needs of an urban population because of non-attendance at educational consultant Jawanza Kunjufu's speech. Kunjufu has authored 33 books. How wonderful it was that Superintendent James Williams showed up. Why, after all these years, has he not responded to the "special needs" of the African-Americans in his district? He and his administrators have had the power to put in place anything they wanted. Research has existed for years, through a variety of educational gurus, on successful programs, curriculum and strategies for the urban student. So where is the implementation by Williams?

Opportunity through professional development days and the Teacher Center were not utilized. What did happen were strictly regulated classrooms by this administration. Teachers are forced to read from standard teacher manuals that can be boring and repetitive to average and above-average students. Administration squashed much of teacher choice in creativity. Schedules are not flexible to accommodate that teachable moment when students suddenly realize how all the information works and another 10 or 20 minutes could solidify the learning.

Eighth-graders quickly work the system when they realize they need only math, English and one social studies or science class to move on to ninth grade. Further research shows most African-American teachers are middle class, with little knowledge of the ghetto child. Teacher bashing by the administration and the public has enabled many students and some parents to act out more and accomplish less. When the value of education is not prevalent in the home, and our administrators ignore possibilities, teachers are left with little leverage for the disenfranchised child.

Mary E. Margerum

Buffalo

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Democrats' promises of jobs ring hollow

In reference to the June 22 article stating Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's sponsorship of the "Make It In America" bill, I would offer the following. Former Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton vowed to bring 200,000 jobs to New York during her term. Based on Gillibrand's findings, we lost 175,000 jobs since 2005. Clinton's failure to address the needs of her adopted state was no deterrent in becoming our country's secretary of state. The idle promises of New York's Democratic senators have echoed through the halls in Washington for too many years now.

Instead of paying unemployment, New York politicians (from both parties) should find a way to pay prospective employers two-thirds of the weekly benefit to hire people on unemployment. The two-thirds payment would supplement the existing wage structure for the employer. Then people would have productive jobs and disposable income, employers would have the incentive to create jobs and New York would save one-third of what is now an incentive not to work.

James Monteleone

Williamsville

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Let the people decide about Seneca casino

I don't know the laws and rules, but why not have a vote on the downtown casino? Let the people decide. If the Senecas had been allowed to build their casino in Cheektowaga, it would have been up and running for years.

Patricia Wilkowski

Cheektowaga

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Schools must protect art, music programs

I was pleased to see Colin Dabkowski addressing concerns over the decline of the arts in the schools of New York State. I don't disagree with anything he stated, however, there are misperceptions that I would like to clarify. His column addresses funding for "arts education" or "arts-in-education" (AIE), not "art education" as the title implies.

AIE programs are funded in large part by grants and fees charged districts for the services they provide. They are outside contractors. AIE artists work in the schools for limited blocks of time, whereas certified art and music teachers who deliver "art education" are employed as regular members of the teaching staff.

I, too, am concerned about the decline in funding for AIEs, but the funding cuts do not mean the end of "art education" in the schools. While the AIEs contract with a few hundred artists across the state to work within the schools, there are 15,000 art and music teachers working on a daily basis, despite limited time and diminishing resources.

By all accounts, the future of our children depends on their command of higher-order thinking skills, including creativity, yet nowhere in today's test-obsessed schools is this happening, except in art and music classes. For those concerned about our children's futures, the survival of thriving art and music programs should be a focus in district budget discussions. At this point in time, electives are being eliminated and programs are being marginalized.

While AIEs provide valuable enrichment and exposure, they are not responsible for the day-to-day standards and assessment-driven curriculum taught by certified art and music teachers. While my intention is not to denigrate AIEs, a visiting artist is not a substitute for vibrant, ongoing art education programs in the schools.

Michael E. Parks

Professor, Art Education Department

Buffalo State College

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Catholics have much to consider when voting

I am not a Catholic, but I read a lot about Catholic views on bedroom matters. I respect the position of the church on sexuality, although I do not agree with it. Sex and economics may be strange bedfellows, but the spokesmen for the two major political parties have views that differ in both of these areas.

It is ironic to me that many working-class Catholics vote against their own best economic interests and elect people who share their bedroom views, but reject the needs of unemployed or underemployed working-class people. Right now the focus is on gay marriage; earlier, it had to do with women's right to choose. So in order to be faithful to one's Catholic religion, a person has to sacrifice his economic well being.

I am amazed that the church, which has often been the champion of the underdog in America and which has provided generally excellent social and educational services, has not seen the irony in suggesting that good Catholics must vote against their own economic interests in order to be faithful to their church.

I would speculate if working-class people voted on economic grounds and paid less attention to the church's attitudes on sex, that Republicans all across the country would seldom if ever control Congress, the presidency or even the Supreme Court. I wonder if most Catholics consider all this when they vote?

Bill Wolfers

Lancaster