By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
What else is to be expected of HISD except the top brass plundering the system? ["(Pay)checks and (Im)balances," by Shaila Dewan, May 21]. The rot starts at the top. Petruzielo was a showboat with a phony, mail-order Ph.D., Raymond was an egomaniacal spendthrift with her own credential problems and Paige was dean of the College of Education at TSU, the academic slum of, arguably, Texas's worst college. Add to that the fact that several years ago, investigative reporters discovered that most of the Taj Mahal's administrators have phony, mail-order master's degrees, which are job requirements.
What was the result of the Houston Press revelation? Teachers' and administrators' academic credentials were made secret. We are not talking about academic records, classes and grades. A teacher's or administrator's academic degrees that are required for public-sector jobs and the granting institutions are secret.
As a group, the HISD administrators are the only people I know of who are embarrassed to tell you what college they got their master's or Ph.D. degrees from.
Hit List for HISD
Thanks for spreading the news about administrative salaries. Principals probably receive "rewards" for improvement in TAAS scores. Teachers receive an evaluation that uses TAAS as part of the score. No money, though. I pay my HISD school taxes with an increasing resentment, based on deplorable schools, crowded classes and a plunge in the quality of education. Now, I can add salaries to the top of the list.
Sheila Says It Isn't So
I am disappointed that with the closing of the Houston Post, formerly the other daily newspaper in Houston, another newspaper that fairly reported real news stories did not develop. I thought the Houston Press could do that, but sadly, that is not the case. ["Flying Miss Sheila," The Insider, May 14].
Elected officials, by the very nature of our positions, expect to be taken to task for anything we do, no matter whether some view it as good or bad. So be it: That is the American way.
In the instance of the Houston Press, I have seen no reason in the past to respond to the paper's continued trivialization of myself and other elected officials. However, out of a deep respect for my constituents, I must respond to the latest trivialization. I believe people are fair. In fact, Houstonians are very fair.
It is important for me to absolutely and clearly deny the quotations attributed to me in that story. The story was, of course, centered around an employee who is no longer employed in the office. It is also vital to assert that at no time did any Houston Press reporters seek to verify the veracity of the story from myself or anyone else in my office.
I am grateful for the staff in my office that works every day to service our constituents. Their daily successes tell the real story; the Houston Press does not!
Sheila Jackson Lee
Member of Congress
Ex-Staffer Seconds Sheila
I worked for over two years for Congresswoman Jackson Lee, who is an energetic member of Congress who sits on the House Science committee and the Judiciary Committee.
She works very hard for the residents of the 18th Congressional District and demands a great deal from her staff.
Working in this office has been an enriching experience that few on or off the Hill can match. It pays off every time I can say to someone that I know how to do a particular task or that I have done that type of project before.
As a former member of her staff who is leaving to go to graduate school, and for no other reason, I would ask that you do a story on her accomplishments and not focus on the negative comments of former staff.
Former systems manager/
Senior legislative assistant
Thy Rod and Thy Staff
Why is Tim Fleck obsessed with Congress member Sheila Jackson Lee and what goes on between her and her staff? Why don't we talk about and spend newspaper print on something that's really important -- like the Republican assault on Social Security, gun control, the environment, public schools, a woman's right to choose and just about every other progressive and enlightened initiative taken in the last six years?
Sheila Jackson Lee votes in the public interest on every one of these issues. She is there on the line. How about concentrating on substantive issues instead of gossip?
I enjoyed the article on the Texas Reading Institute. ["Why Johnny Might Someday Be Able to Read," by Shaila Dewan, May 14]. The article was well written. Last summer, my son attended the Texas Reading Institute and made years of progress in just one month, and he continues to make progress with the maintenance plan they have him on. Thank you for an article that I believe will open many eyes and help many children.
Lott of Praise
I enjoyed the story regarding Mr. Bergman and his quest to get to the bottom of poor reading ability in children. His ability to influence, at least somewhat, the large school system is remarkable considering what he was up against.
You mention Thaddeus Lott in your story, and it occurred to me it has been a while since I heard anything about him. Has he actually retired? One of the sad commentaries on our system was the fact that his impact on the kids at Wesley was not acknowledged the way I thought it should have been ... for example, there was no "fan-out" of his methods to other schools, and it didn't seem that others recognized his importance to the community. I always felt that Houston and Texas somehow never gave him the credit he fully deserved and never followed up with ways to build on the momentum he had created. Is this generally a reasonable assessment?
I enjoyed your article about Dr. Eldo Bergman. I agree that phonemic awareness is crucial to reading success. But for some kids, with other issues, such as language, central auditory processing disorders, executive function problems, etc., phonemic awareness is just the first step, albeit a critical one, to becoming a successful reader.
Phonemic awareness alone will not help with their comprehension, short-term memory, higher-level thinking skills or other problems, nor will it translate to a successful, fluent reader. Research is just beginning to look into what kids with multiple learning deficits need. For example, my own nine-year-old daughter had intensive phonemic-awareness training with Lindamood-Bell, but it was apparent to me that there was a whole lot more going on than just phonemic awareness. She is one who requires much more in terms of the number of hours required for phonemic-awareness competency, and even when the phonemic awareness was there, it did not translate into the ability to fluently decode. There are no quick fixes for these kids.
Thank you for your interesting article.
Healthy News Dose
I wish to compliment the Press for "A Bitter Pill" [by Brian Wallstin, April 23]. This was the article about alcohol in "alcohol-free" medicines. This is what the alternative press should be. Please do a follow-up in a couple of months.
The article was readable, thorough, long enough, but not too long. There were details necessary to describe a complex reality, but not too many details. First rate.
Paving Over Taxpayers
In the "Upping the Ante-Up" article [by Richard Connelly, May 7] on the battle over an HOV lane or a toll road, the writer mentions that Texas is due for a big share of an expected increase in federal highway spending. How is it that this city and this state have so much money to spend on road destruction? Barrels, barricades, detours and bumpy, dusty streets are all over this city, constantly.
And when one project gets finished, it's often a very short time before it gets ripped up again. Part of West Gray was torn up and expanded a couple of years ago, and now it's being torn up again. You can find multiple examples of this throughout the city. Do we just have so much money that we don't care if the work is shoddy; we'll just do it again?
If the roads are being repeatedly dug up for different reasons, why can't there be some coordination to minimize public inconvenience and expense? For instance, roads were torn up in Montrose last year to put in a new sewer line, and city officials said at a civic association meeting that some of them would be torn up again soon for flood-control purposes. This is absurd.
All for Freeways
It would seem to me that the county, the city, the state and the federal government should look into the idea of having a four-lane freeway (between U.S. 59 and Westheimer). In the morning, three of the lanes could be routed into the city, with one going out, and the processed could be reversed in the evening. Make sure that the property along the route has trees and high walls in place to address pollution and noise. During normal traffic, the road could be two lanes each way. No HOV. No toll. No problem. The additional lanes would save drivers wear and tear on their vehicles, get them home quicker and in a better mood, for not being "stuck" in traffic. This is family oriented, and serves the city best!
Seems like common sense; unfortunately, sense is not always common.
"Baby Doc" Beef
I am writing in reference to "Little Girl Lost?" [by Brian Wallstin, May 21]. While I applaud any and all efforts to air this child's plight and, overall, commend author Brian Wallstin's presentation of the story as being as neutral as possible, I do take issue. (You weren't really trying to stroke me out with the first two pages, were you Brian?)
My allegations against the Harris County District Attorney's office were anything but unspecified. See the enclosed photo, which contains a five-by-12-foot sign that reads "John 'Baby Doc' Holmes Jr. is stealing (the drug-seized) money, American Bank, Special Account No. 11300347 0045314." Other signs in front of the Family Law Center were just as specific regarding Harris County District Attorney personnel.
Brittany's case is a perfect example of the imperfections in our DA's office, primarily selective prosecution. Why do some people receive immunity or special plea bargains from John Holmes & Co., while others are hounded at every turn?
Ms. Phrogge Simons
Dads Don't Rate
"Little Girl Lost?" reveals the following about the current state of "Anti-Family Law."
While a mother can opt out of motherhood via adoption or abortion, a father is obligated for 18 years of child support even in the event of birth-control fraud, and must pay for the paternity test. A father who asserts any paternity rights will spend multiples of the mother's legal fees (in this case, $100,000), and will subject himself to charges of abuse.
Mothers and their supporters can violate court orders with impunity. Fathers will be jailed for similar behavior.
The media will characterize any effort by a father to assert rights to his children as either negative (abusive, selfish) or neutral (they are both at fault, neither is thinking of the child's best interests).
The current system is so overwhelmingly biased against father custody, it is no wonder that fathers resort to desperate measures. Only when fathers have a reasonable chance for custody will mothers have any incentive to act in the best interest of the children. Perhaps we need affirmative action programs for fathers.
Parting Safari Shots
I have been trying to reach Randall Patterson for several days via phone; he must be busy on an article. A recent short article in the Houston Safari Club publication The Hunters Horn made me want to thank him for his "The Dead Zoo" article in the Houston Press [March 5].
Randall, we have had so many good experiences because of your article that I felt compelled to let you know. At one point, a friend brought us 26 copies of the Press and requested that a number of them be autographed for various people. For the most part, all feedback to us has been on the positive side.
At this point, Cecil [Hopper] has autographed many copies of the issue with his story, and he had the chance to talk to many, many people who were impressed with it. I must admit that when I read the "Return Fire" letter in the Press on March 19, I was upset. But Cecil seemed to take this person's remarks in stride, with his usual good nature.
I still feel that the really small person is the one who wants to hide his identity and call another person a "jerk" and a "small person" to the rest of the community. Name-calling is pretty childish and small, especially when you aren't man enough to face up to doing it!
The article in The Hunters Horn put it very nicely, stating that this Houston Press article was more about Cecil the man, "joyful, straightforward and completely absorbed in the delights of hunting and of life." It also made the comment, "It is not at all surprising to find that even there [Houston Press], Cecil's warmth and joie de vivre can prevail."
Randall, again, let me say that it was a job well done.
Damn, We're Good...
The National Association of Black Journalists recently awarded two of its annual prizes to Houston Press staff writers.
Shaila Dewan's "The Art of Darkness" [June 12, 1997] won first place in the Features category for publications with circulation of 150,000 or less. In that story, Dewan profiled Michael Ray Charles, an African-American painter who explores issues of race via the loaded images of pickaninnies and Little Black Sambos. Dewan asked, is Charles the "racial healer" he's been proclaimed? Or is he falling prey himself to the negative power of the images?
Bob Burtman's "Shadow Over Texas City" [May 29, 1997] won first place in the Enterprise category. Burtman examined how the region's petrochemical plants and refineries took advantage of nearby residents -- mostly poor minorities who, unable to sell their houses, couldn't escape the dangers the plants pose.
But Not Perfect
Correction: All Aerial Theater listings in the Houston Press Summer Guide [May 21] carried the wrong address and box-office telephone number. The Aerial Theater is located at 520 Texas Avenue; its phone number is 230-1600.