Blowing Up the Apple

Week of July 23, 2003

Blowing Up the Apple
Calling them as he sees them: Congratulations to D.J. Wilson for his beautifully crafted reporting in "Demolition Man" [July 9]. The article was as gutsy, well-documented and enlightening as any I have read in a local newspaper, including the Post-Dispatch, for some time now. Wilson captured the turmoil and conflicting emotions, facts and allegations triggered by the hiring of Bill Roberti, business expert and problem solver, and his firm Alvarez & Marsal, to massively overhaul the heavily indebted St. Louis school system. The firm could realize $4.8 million, with Roberti serving as interim school superintendent, in effect.

The headline on Wilson's article reads: "To save St. Louis public schools, Bill Roberti and his band of hired guns plan to blow things up. Who'll pick up the pieces when they're gone?" How fair is the headline? To my way of thinking, Wilson does a credible job of documenting his conclusions. In the process, he is clearly critical of Mayor Francis Slay and former mayor Vincent Schoemehl and the majority members of the new school board. The board, Wilson says, "moved with great haste in ceding operational control to the outside consultants within a month of being elected. Slay's slate...engineered the hiring of a private firm to virtually take over the district for a year."

And Wilson adds, "When the mayor's four candidates campaigned on a school-reform platform, they never told voters they'd turn over the job to outside consultants. And they never said they'd exclude key constituencies involved in public education -- such as teachers, district employees and parent groups -- from the decision-making."

Whether you agree with Wilson or not, that is calling the shots as he sees them.
Lou Rose, reporter (retired)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis

What about the education part? D.J. Wilson's fine, comprehensive review of the current effort to revive and save the effectiveness of public education in the city of St. Louis touched all the bases. The plan has some promise, but the administration ought to have the good sense of its own limitations and listen to the able, public welfare-oriented critics mentioned in the article, like Amy Hilgemann and radio-talker Lizz Brown.

Not a word appeared in the article about the need for the knowledge and effectiveness of teachers, education and training skills. When I went through schools, from first grade in 1918 through grad school in 1962, teachers knew more effectively how to introduce young minds to the skills of reading, writing, speaking, thinking, calculating. If teachers don't know, from their philosophy of education, what children are essentially, they cannot train them effectively. Clarity, and the priority of teacher skill is first.
Cyril Echele
St. Charles

Department of clarification: D.J. Wilson's fine article on the public schools said I refer to the new members of the St. Louis Board of Education as "nazis." The full phrase I use is "board nazis" -- a little less severe, and funnier. It has always been true. Now it's more true and it's not funny any more. They have proposed hiring a sergeant at arms to physically remove Rochell Moore (and me?) from the meetings if we're "out of order."

This in the face of two court decisions in the past four years prohibiting us from disciplining our members in such a way, especially for such a subjective offense and clearly designed to stifle public dissent. This will inevitably lead to physical violence, and is totally unnecessary. These are very dangerous people, and they have to go, whether by lawsuit for their breach of the public trust and fiduciary duty or by walkout of those who love the children and employees of the district.

Mayor Francis Slay, school board member Vince Schoemehl, Slay's education liaison Robbyn Wahby and the Bryan Cave law firm (Vince's unpaid advisors) should not be running the district. Mussolini got the trains to run on time, but that didn't make him a great leader.
Bill Haas, member
St. Louis Board of Education
St. Louis

Good "Evidence"
How many more? "Best Evidence" was disturbing and very scary [Geri L. Dreiling, July 2]. After reading it, I was paralyzed with disgust for the system. I began to think that maybe Governor Ryan of Illinois might be on to something with a moratorium on the death penalty. After hearing the accounts of this case, the question becomes: How many people like George Allen Jr. are in similar situations, with no one to argue their case?

Thanks again, and keep the public posted on the conclusion of this case -- otherwise the powers that be might be able to just sweep the atrocities under the table.
J.J. Polk
St. Louis

Let's Hear It for Arkansas!
Who's embarrassing whom? Having read about the police clampdown on citizens in Randall Roberts' June 25 cover story "Meet the Anarchists," I read Unreal's "MO No-Blow Law Is No Mo'" [July 2]. For some reason, the writer attempted to compare green, friendly Missouri with the death-penalty capital of the world, Texas.

Writing from Little Rock, one of the top creative-class cities of its size in America, I wonder how Missouri and Texas could consider Arkansas to be the "embarrassing border state," rather than the other way around.
Stephen Koch
Little Rock, Arkansas

Next Page »