Letters - April 7, 2006

Chamber asks state to allocate funds for Rt. 26
Editor’s note: The following open letter was addressed to the members the state legislature’s Bond Bill Committee and forwarded to the Coastal Point for publication.

I’m writing on behalf of the Board of Directors and the more than 800 members of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce.

We fully appreciate the financial challenges facing the state of Delaware, and especially the Department of Transportation, in the coming fiscal year. As you prioritize projects we respectfully request that you allocate the monies necessary to keep the Route 26 improvement projects in play and on track. Rising real estate prices and continued development make this project more costly every day you wait. It’s fiscally prudent for you to continue funding this project so that it can proceed. Continuing to delay it will only cost every Delaware taxpayer more money.

The Route 26 improvement project (both local roads improvement and mainline widening) will be 80 percent funded by federal highway funds. Only the 20 percent match is needed to keep these projects moving. As per DelDOT Project Manager Tom Banez’s estimates, a total of $3.96 million for fiscal year 2007 will provide the 20 percent match for design costs, construction of the local roads improvements and necessary real estate acquisition along Route 26 itself.

The project is desperately needed to ease rapidly growing congestion problems, enable emergency vehicles to respond promptly to residents in need, create bike lanes where no safe path exists and vastly improve the evacuation route. Again, we are respectfully asking the Bond Bill Committee to allocate fiscal year 2007 funds of $2.43 million for the local roads improvement construction and $1.53 million for the necessary right of way acquisitions to continue the Route 26 improvement project.

Thank you for your consideration of and attention to our concerns.

Karen L. McGrath, Executive Director
Bethany-Fenwick Area
Chamber of Commerce

Spring has sprung — think of your pets

Now that good weather has finally arrived, we feel like getting out and taking care of all those things we have put off doing during those cold winter months. I see people raking, weeding and working on their cars. We would never think of letting our cars go too long before getting the oil change or routine maintenance.

Now is also the time to think about getting your pets to the vet for their yearly shots and spay/neuter needs. Living in a rural county, as well as a resort area, there are too many abandoned or unwanted animals to be found on any day of the week. According to the National Humane Society Education Society, in two year’s time, one unspayed female cat, her mate and offspring can multiply into 67 cats. And that is a conservative estimate, factoring in only two litters a year (three litters is not unrealistic) and only two or three kittens a litter.

Yearly vaccinations are a must in an area where rabies is an all too real problem and a distemper shot will protect a mother/father from passing on a fatal virus to some of the unborn. All too often the deadly distemper virus can wipe out entire litters or leave the remaining babies with health issues like cerebellar hypoplasia (similar to cerebral palsy). Also the spread of respiratory viruses that seem to affect a lot of strays are prevented through vaccination.

We, at Delmarva Cat Connection, along with all the rest of the other animal rescue organizations, will soon start to receive a high volume of calls telling us of found litters needing homes. We always have more calls than foster homes to accommodate them until they are ready to be adopted.

We test all incoming cats or kittens for feline leukemia/HIV and treat for fleas and ear mites, and, when 8 to 9 weeks old, they are vaccinated. When they are old enough, they will be spayed/neutered. Sadly, many of these kittens were from someone’s cat that was not spayed. If your cat is pregnant or you are feeding a stray that is in the family way, please know that she needs extra care and a vet trip, if possible, is in order.

We are always in need of volunteers that can help foster or work with us on adoption days (we have placed over 1,300 cats/kittens in the past four and a half years). We emphasize the importance of sterilizing all pets. Donations are always welcome as we are a non-profit organization and we have never-ending veterinary and fostering expenses. We can be reached at (410) 723-5585 or at Delmarva Cat Connection, P.O. Box 1323, Ocean Pines, Md. 21811. (Note: We have a new mailing address.)

Please remember that your pet gives unconditional love and affection and asks so very little in return. Just as you cherish that new house or car, please take a little bit of time in your busy life to get your pet in to the vet for an annual checkup. If we all do a little, we can all accomplish so much.

I want to wish everyone the very best this spring has to offer — enjoy. Also please consider, when adopting, that an older cat makes a great companion.

Jacki Martins
Delmarva Cat Connection

Reader supports Wilson for school board seat

The race for School Board in District No.4 of the Indian River School District presents an interesting contrast: Charles Bireley, who is approaching almost 30 years on the school board, or newcomer Jackie Wilson. The race on face value may seem like a mismatch but look more closely.

For those who don’t know Jackie Wilson, she is a distinguished 30-year educator, with almost all of that time spent in the Indian River School District. Under her tutelage, she led the Lord Baltimore Elementary School to National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence status and was recognized by the State of Delaware as Elementary Principal of the Year.

Wilson gives up nothing to Bireley, whose time has passed. Wilson brings fresh ideas, working hands-on knowledge of the educational system at the local, state and higher education levels. She has managed school budgets, supervised and evaluated staff and worked closely with legislators on a variety of issues. She is without doubt one of the most qualified individuals to run for school board in the state of Delaware in recent history.

Bireley will undoubtedly run on his record and his ability to keep a steady hand on the wheel as the district travels through turbulent times. Well, unfortunately, the district has succumbed to these turbulent times while Bireley was at the wheel. This is the year for change and Jackie Wilson is the person for the job. Please join me in supporting her on May 9.

Kami Banks

Sometimes, Frankford just isn’t Frankford

Regarding your story, page 5, March 24, 2006, “Police Hook Frankford-area Prostitution Ring,”: Twin Cedars Apartments are nowhere near the sleepy corporate limits of Frankford, a town of 300 or 400 people where not much ever happens. In fact, if it happened, it probably wasn’t in Frankford. Twin Cedars Apartments are closer to Bayard, or Roxana, or Williamsville, or Fenwick Island, than they are to Frankford.

This is not the first time that the local media has used the name Frankford in a headline, coupled with the word drugs or the word crime. The implication is, of course, that Frankford is rampant with prostitution, drugs or crime when, in dreary fact, Frankford is not rampant with much of anything.

The problem is that there is a Frankford ZIP code, 19945, that encompasses a quite large area, and a tiny, sleepy town of Frankford with a town council and a mayor and a fire department and a library and a town clerk and a justice court and a lot of nice ordinary people where, really, not much happens. Take it from me. I live there.

Maybe the Coastal Point headline writer should reserve the use of the word Frankford for news that happens within the corporate limits of Frankford and not within the big 19945 ZIP.

Charles S. Adams

Bireley happy with passing of referendum

Referendums are often referred to as “reports cards for school boards.” They provide an opportunity for the citizens to vote in critical needs as presented by the school board.

When voting last Tuesday, the citizens were aware of the following facts:

(1) The Indian River School District has not had a tax increase for current expense (books, teaching supplies, utilities, etc.) since 1996. In 1996, when the taxpayers graciously passed that referendum, the board put into place a finance committee to make sure every penny approved by the citizens was used for specific cost centers. I believe that the citizens remembered how well we managed those funds for 10 years.

(2) With the funding in provided in 1996, the school district was able to put into place all the necessary tools to educate our students. Our state test scores and student performance speak for themselves. Overall, we rank at the top of the state. Ten of our schools have a superior rating. Indian River is the only public high school in the state that received a superior rating.

(3) The referendum question that provided funding for our staff was greatly appreciated. This year I am part of a committee that is responsible for negotiations with our employee groups. We are working together to reach a fair and equitable settlement for all of our employees. I am very proud of our negotiations team, very professional in every aspect of their responsibilities.

(4) Our academic performance is not solely a financial matter. Our teachers, administration and support staff have all worked together to provide an excellent learning environment for the students. We consider discipline in the schools to be very important and the Indian River School District has strict policies that provide methods to keep our schools safe.

(5) Parents are providing great assistance to the schools. We are grateful to the parents who take an active role in their child’s education.

To the voters who did not support the referendum, I do understand your concerns. Nobody enjoys tax increases. I am an accountant by trade: I understand the impact of a tax increase. I do promise to manage the funds in an equitable manner and that every penny provided will be used to improve our educational delivery. Please watch our performance over the next few years and I believe you will see continued improvement in our responsibility of educating our most precious resource, our future leaders of our community, our children.

Charles Bireley, President
Indian River School District
Board of Education

Bireley is already a proven leader

Frequently, school board elections are popularity contests with little or no issues. This year, Indian River District 4 voters have a reason to vote, to send a strong message of support for Charles Bireley for his leadership during the school prayer lawsuit filed for two citizens (one is a John Doe) by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Indian River School Board and individual school board members.

Recently public comments have been made by Lloyd Elling, a former unsuccessful candidate for the Indian River School Board, that calls for the immediate resignation of school board members and a state investigation. Elling has the audacity to call these elected volunteer citizens criminals. This is hogwash. Elling would want you to believe that the IR School Board members are a bunch of Bible-thumping right-wing radicals so that he succeeds in his quest of his own political agenda, taking away rights given to legislative bodies by the American constitution.

For those who are interested, possibly a review of the “school prayer” lawsuit is in order:

• Issue started in May 2004 when a over zealous community minister prayed in the name of Jesus at the Sussex Central graduation.

• Mona Dobrich complained to Superintendent Hobbs. Superintendent Hobbs placed in motion procedures that would not allow this to happen again. The school board passed a motion that the district could not request a school prayer at a student function, but if students requests an invocation, that is acceptable.

• Dobrich and attorneys from the ACLU attended a school board meeting where as tradition as always been, the meeting open with a prayer.

• Suit was filed against the IR board for allowing the prayer before the start of the school board meeting.

• In September 2005, U.S. federal Judge Joseph Farnan Jr. ruled that school boards in Delaware are a legislative body and therefore can open its meetings with a prayer. The case was dismissed against the district and individual board members.

• Even after the federal ruling, the lawsuit persists.

Organizations like the ACLU and supported by individuals like Lloyd Elling seek out organizations where they know there are financial limitations, not a lot of money to fight a lawsuit. The Indian River School Board and Bireley had a difficult decision to make: give in to the baseless lawsuit or fight for their constitutional rights with spending no money that was intended for education. They chose to fight, and for their effort, I will support Birely and all the school board members because they represent my rights through leadership.

For those who have never attended an Indian River School Board meeting and wonder about the prayer, I can provide some insight. For five years, I was an Indian River School Board member. I am not a Bible-thumping religious zealot. As the monthly meeting began, the Board president would ask for a short prayer to be issued by a fellow board member. In Washington, D.C., each session of the United States legislative branch is opened with a prayer.

The prayer before the monthly meeting lasts on average between 30 and 45 seconds. The prayer is not a “Hail Mary” or an “Our Father.” It is more of a reminder of the responsibility that this board has for making good decisions for the students and staff of the IR district. I’ve attended many board meetings and “Jesus” is never used, terms like Heavenly Father, Lord, etc., are used, which is applicable to any belief.

What goes on in the head of a board member during this prayer? Is religion influencing their decision? I can only speak from my experience. I used these 30 to 45 seconds to internally reflect on the issues at hand, to provide last-second quality time to help me make decisions that will be in the best interests of students, parents and professional staff. Prayer never influenced my decision and I doubt any other board member.

I trust the information provided in this letter provides the readers with sufficient facts that will assist you in their voting decision on May 9, 2006. Leadership is rare and for 29 years, Bireley has unceremoniously represented this district in every conceivable vote. But none has been bigger than the “prayer” lawsuit. For his position and leadership on this issue, I respectfully ask you to vote for Charles Bireley, who stood strong defending your constitutional rights.

Dave Devine

Referendum was a no-brainer to pass

I was glad that the Indian River School District referendum was approved on Tuesday March 28th.

It was reported that more than 4,200 district residents voted on the referendum. This was not the highest turn out, but far from the lowest. Parents, grandparents, other family and friends of the affected children surly voted for these issues. They were not alone. Many concerned residents of the district with no children in the system also voted approval. My concern was how close the vote was.

I can only think of four reasons why someone would vote against these issues and would like to share them with you.

First: The nay voter did not feel it a problem that heat in the schools would be lowered due to the higher energy cost.

Second: The nay voter saw no problem with the IRSD teachers being some of the lowest compensated in the area.

Third: The nay voter thought water dripping from a leaking school roof on children, their texts and equipment could be handled by a roll of paper towels.

Fourth: To the nay voter who can not afford an increase in property taxes, this letter does not pertain to you.

Whether you voted yes or no on this referendum and went through the public school system, thank your teachers for being able to read my letter. For the no voters, you have others to thank for getting you through school: voters.

George F. Eckert
Bethany Beach

Hobbs thankful for passing of referendum

I would like to take this opportunity to offer my heartfelt thanks to the residents of the Indian River School District for their approval of the three-part major capital improvement and current expense referendum on Tuesday, March 28. During my 10 years as superintendent, our caring taxpayers have consistently stepped forward in support of a variety of initiatives designed to improve to improve our educational programs and facilities. For this, I am grateful.

Your generosity on March 28 has provided us with a means of offsetting rising energy and utility prices, repairing and maintaining our educational facilities, purchasing supplies for the opening of a new middle school and providing a salary increase for our hardworking and dedicates employees. In these challenging economic times, it is comforting to know that our residents are willing to make sacrifices for the benefits of our students.

On behalf of the Board of Education, students and staff, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to our caring public for recognizing the importance of these initiatives and authorizing the proposed tax increases. Rest assured that we will work extremely hard to maximize the benefits of this additional property tax revenue. Thanks again for supporting our efforts to “Brighten our Children’s Future.”

Lois M. Hobbs, Superintendent
Indian River School District

Will the real Mike Castle please stand up?

About three months ago, Rep. Mike Castle cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of a draconian Republican budget that severely slashed funding for a number of programs vital to the well-being of low and middle-income Americans in areas including education and student loans, environmental protection, assistance for low-income families, children, the elderly and disabled, and medical research to improve health care.

Now Republicans in Congress are again proposing dramatic cuts to many of the same programs.

This time Mike Castle says he opposes the cuts.

Who is Mike Castle? Is he the conservative who voted for a right-wing agenda and against the needs of most Americans earlier this year, or is he really a “moderate”? Has he “changed his stripes” now with the November election approaching? If he’s re-elected, will he go back to supporting Bush and his right-wing allies?

Listen closely to Castle as he campaigns for re-election. You may hear the sound of beach footwear: flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop.

Richard Legatski