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Helping troubled youth continues Baker's legacy

I would like to answer the recent News article titled, "What would Father Baker do?" Without hesitation, he would build a much-needed facility for troubled youth. That's exactly what he did during his lifetime.

Baker Victory Services serves fragile children, many of whom have experienced incidents that have left them traumatized. The agency provides a safe haven at a difficult time in their lives, and we strive to help them turn their lives around through specialized counseling, therapy and education.

To do this more effectively, Baker Victory Services plans to replace several outdated cottages with a safe, efficient and visually pleasing residential facility. The building will serve the same 40 young people, with the exact same challenges.

In September, we completed a door-to-door survey near our campus to share information about the building project and to glean neighborhood reaction. There was resounding support for the project and the agency. More than 50 neighbors were interviewed, and only two were against the project. Most stated they have never had an issue with our residents, and the few who did said they contacted us and were pleased with how the situation was handled.

We have acknowledged the difficulties we experienced five years ago, and are proud of the improvements made by our dedicated staff. We also acknowledge that, like every other behavioral health agency, there are times our clients act out. However, we do not have groups of teens roaming the streets, nor do we take in violent criminals. It is unfortunate that misperceptions of a mere few have created gross misrepresentations about a valuable project.

Father Baker is our inspiration, not our shield. He faced community opposition and "not in my back yard" resistance throughout his 60-year ministry. He persevered to help the needy. We strive to continue that legacy of caring today.

Monsignor Paul J.E. Burkard

President, Baker Victory Services

Lackawanna

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Mansion is beautiful but school has issues

I read with great interest the My View from John Ashwood, head of Oracle Charter School. It's true, the beauty, detail and architectural intricacies of the Goodyear Mansion are spectacular. I remember marveling as I looked up a beautiful wooden, ornate spiral staircase when hired to teach Spanish there last year.

Unfortunately, that dreamy awe I experienced faded quickly. I quit teaching there out of concerns for my own physical safety. I truly hope things have improved. It amazes me how perceptions can differ. Was I imagining threats to guards and attacks on administrators (even mentioned in The News' crime briefs)? Was I imagining planned fights at the Utica Station and other neighborhood spots after school? Was I imagining police being called to the school with great frequency? I think not. There were many fights breaking out and guards were rushing from one location to the next. My nearly being knocked unconscious was trivial.

Yes, there are some awesome kids there, trying their very best to learn in surroundings that I can only describe as bordering on chaos. I truly hope things have changed for the better. But I must wonder. Jobs are really tough to find and teachers have been laid off in record numbers, yet I still see from the help wanted ads that Oracle can't keep a full staff.

Lacey Buscaglia

Amherst

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Workers settle for less in a struggling economy

I love Buffalo, but I had a boss once who used the phrase, "it doesn't pass the smell test." It was his way of saying that, right off the bat, something didn't make sense. I'd have to say that the recent Forbes rankings of Buffalo don't pass the smell test. Let's start with earnings. I can't find a job in the $70,000 per year range in Buffalo, and I've earned $100,000-plus per year, on and off, since 1997. Employers are simply abusing talent in light of the economic downturn.

A low cost of living may be true as long as you are willing to face crime, nuisances and other circumstances like rebuilding your gem of a house built in the early 1900s. Per-pupil expenditures may be low, relative to the rest of the nation, but we certainly don't seem to be getting adequate results per dollar invested. Even my Buffalo teacher friends send their kids to Canisius and Nardin because they know the institutions that employ them fail to deliver a safe environment or effective results. If unemployment is low here, it's because Western New Yorkers have settled for less than they are worth. If a community is disproportionately loaded with low-paying jobs, without benefits and a fair wage, is it really of value?

As far as commutes go, if I have a short ride to a job that doesn't pay what I'm worth, is it of value? Let's leverage our culture and heritage to move toward tourism and new revenues!

Michael R. Weekes

President, Whataboutquality

Buffalo

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Schools making strides on energy conservation

Recently, President Obama said our nation could perhaps make the most progress in our energy use through conservation. Well, the Buffalo Public Schools have much to share in this regard. I recently attended a presentation on the Joint School Construction project. I was impressed by the energy conservation measures it has taken in the 48 buildings that have already been reconstructed (seven more schools are scheduled for completion in Phase 5).

Lighting has been modernized to electronic T5 ballasts, and further energy savings are being considered through the use of LED lighting. Window replacements with insulated glass were completed, conserving energy. Wood frames were saved in buildings that were eligible for historic preservation. Heating systems have been radically improved. Boilers that ran on a combination of gas and oil have been changed to gas only. Previously the boilers created steam for radiators that were on all the time. This caused too much heat to be directed to some rooms and too little to others. Now the Medicus Environmental System adjusts energy usage in each room, conserving energy.

Another great project under way is the green roof tray system of plants being implemented for McKinley High School. It is hoped this system will improve insulation, thereby decreasing heating/cooling costs. It will also reduce the amount of water runoff into the sewer system during heavy rains, while acting as a laboratory for the school's horticulture program. In addition, I was excited by a discussion of a joint geothermal project for the Science Museum/Science Magnet School.

Architects are fond of pointing out that "the greenest building is the one that's already built." Perhaps the greatest conservation in the reconstruction project is the fact that all buildings were remodeled and none were lost to the wrecking ball.

Harry DeLano

Buffalo