This argument then, as now, is easily refuted by the scores of poverty-stricken young people in school districts throughout Arizona who are succeeding just fine (thank you very much!) in schools where they are treated as normal kids just like everyone else.
Pat Goodman, Phoenix

Not a cheerful giver: An "A" for your Pappas story. I've been drinking the Pappas Kool-Aid for the past two years — as a mentor and as a classroom volunteer at the elementary school. I feel that education is the last priority at Pappas (my creds: B.A. in math, M.S. in education).

I return home each week frustrated, disheartened, and disbelieving. But I keep thinking "if I can help just one kid . . ." Also, as a donor, I feel robbed.
Alice Demetra, Phoenix

Or people with influence:Congratulations on a well-written, insightful article. As a current classroom aide volunteer at the Pappas School, I was riveted by every word.

You have certainly hit the nail on the head; I have had many of the same thoughts in the last three years. I only hope that people with influence (Congressman J.D. Hayworth is a regular visitor) really read your entire article and believe it.
Name withheld by request

Purse full of pork: Oh, my! You sure nailed it, but the Dowling debacle is not unique. In my 30 years of teaching I have seen such abuse, incompetence and arrogance toward our children as something all too pervasive in public education. Your remark about the lack of inquiry as to what goes on in the classroom is the heart of the matter: we assume our kids are getting an education, but the sad truth is (in many cases) if a student gets an education it is in spite of the school.

Parents wouldn't think of suing the keepers of their children, because it seems, well, cruel. But the cruelty is in the classroom, and the Dowling example, above all others, cries out for justice.

But why do Dowling, et al., do it? Because they can, and they can because nobody is looking. The Legislature has made public education into too much pork at the public purse, and it has created little fiefdoms for favorites. Washington and state houses are watched by a vigilant press corps, but local education is not. The result is that crimes against our kids continue.

Sandra Dowling's whiny excuses are typical: Students can't learn because of poverty or legislative indifference. These are bogus arguments because the indifference is Dowling's leadership. Try this analogy: A chief surgeon becomes chief because he is a skilled cutter, but people do not become principals or superintendents because they are excellent teachers. Case in point: I work at a public high school and one of the principals, who is in charge of instruction, has never taught in high school.

I thank you for your article, but someone with standing needs to push harder to make these people do what's right for the academic life of our kids, and to reveal Dowling for the fraud and arrogant autocrat she really is.
Tom Turk, Glendale

Growing up too fast: As I have been involved with the Thomas J. Pappas school for some time, I picked up my weekly New Times with added interest when I saw your cover. This interest grew significantly when I read your introductory paragraph stating that the writer served the school as a volunteer mentor. I have been a part of that program for several years. I knew at the outset that her experiences should be similar to mine

Unlike her, though, I am still an active member of that program and plan to remain involved. For that reason, I ask that you not include my name if you happen to print this letter. I don't want to risk my comments being misinterpreted by any of the many dedicated staff members whom I count as friends.

I share your assessment about the "feel good" nature of the school tours and the excitement you get from those guiding you through the facility. However, after spending a significant time there and chatting with the staff, I was struck that many of them do not share even half that level of enthusiasm. In fact, it seems as though many of the teachers and other staff really struggle with maintaining order and generally seem worn out. On the other hand, I have also encountered teachers, counselors and administrators with boundless energy and enthusiasm.

Many people probably don't realize that the normally very challenging job of teaching is compounded at Pappas by the fluctuating attendance levels in classes. Kids seems to come and go, and then subsequently reappear, at a much higher frequency than at neighborhood-based schools. This makes planning and preparing an incredible challenge for teachers.

Until your article, I never really had any facts to make an assessment of the educational achievement of the school, and I was deeply disappointed to learn that test scores indicate Pappas is not succeeding in that key area. I wholeheartedly agree with the point you make that if we don't educate children, we are in fact not really helping them. That we are just making ourselves feel better and, in a sense, moving the problem down the line. Obviously, without an education these children will not be able to break out of their current situation — which should be the ultimate goal.

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