Letters - March 3, 2006

Failed leadership on the IRSD School Board

The IRSD Board of Education membership has actively supported and participated in the defiance of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America with their board-directed Christian prayer issues. The IRSD board membership forced members of our community to bring legal action against the IRSD regarding prayer in order to protect their children from governmental determined religious expression because the IRSD board refused to follow the law. The board continues to present a “dishonest role model” for students, educators, administrators and community citizens to defy the law of our land by playing a “shell game” with the school prayer issue. They are improperly, if not illegally, using public monies to pursue their personal faith expression and impose it upon everyone with full knowledge of multiple court decisions contrary to their practices. Yes, the board has many citizens of our school district who can be found singing their praises and supporting them in this “shell game.” Regardless, it is a dishonest act against all who are protected under the First Amendment of our Constitution and a misuse of public position and taxpayer monies.

We must ask, are these the same type of people Jesus called liars for their public prayers? Are these the same type of people Jesus told to go into a “closet” and pray? Our freedom of religion is only free as long as every one of us is free from governmental determined religion. When one religious group determines that their religion is primary to all others, acts on it and sees the public school system as fertile ground for evangelism, religious freedom for all can be lost. Religious decisions for children belong to their parents. You never had permission from Andrea and I to impose your religious belief on our child and we are Catholic. You never had permission from the families who sued the IRSD for the very same issue and they are Jewish. You never had permission to use taxpayers’ dollars to violate any single individual’s religious freedom in the public school system. You have been dishonest to the taxpayers and the parents of our public school system.

You authors of school prayer on the IRSD School Board, take the honest step and use your talents to pursue an amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America to establish a specific religion of the government if you are truly committed to your belief … if you truly believe this is the desire of the majority of the citizens under our Constitution … if you are convinced that you have God in the White House or the Supreme Court Justices are now in place to support you. Put your personal money into the effort. This is your guaranteed right. Go for it! Take the honest two lane road for it will be transparent.

The failed board leadership was seen in the public battle over board member Donna Mitchell’s ethic violations. Where is the leadership of the board in this embarrassing issue that may be headed for the State Board of Public Integrity review or the Freedom of Information Act review by the Attorney General of Delaware? I would dislike intensely to uncover that the members of the board of education encouraged or supported Donna Mitchell to verbally attack parents in our school district, tell parents to take their children to private schools, spread misinformation about IRSD administration staff and used parent’s personal communications to her as a board of education member for public exposure.

Members of the board are once again demonstrating their failed leadership with the comments expressed by Finance Committee member Barry Dean in the Delaware Wave newspaper. Here we have Barry Dean, expressing his thoughts on financial issues: “I have a problem with this, and I will say this ‘til the day I die, with giving these students money to learn English,” he said. “If you go to Mexico their government isn’t going to give you anything.” Why did not Barry Dean simply say that he understands the needs of these young children, but can our public school system give these needed services? His words are extreme prejudice in the least of definitions. These are comments directed at 3- and 4-year-old Spanish speaking children. Charles Bireley heard these words personally and thought nothing of it until I called him. Committee Chairman John M. Evans appointed Barry Dean to the Finance Committee and he heard these remarks and thought nothing of it even after I told him how offensive they are. What would come of these unacceptable comments if the Wave reporter had not quoted them? I suspect that none of our representatives on the IRSD School Board can remember being innocent at 3 or 4 years old, were ever poor, spoke a different language or had parents who crossed a border to escape poverty into the richest country on the planet earth. Where are you “Christians” who author public school prayer? Are you so deep in public prayer you cannot see the needs of our poor? Perhaps, you all do not see these children as “our poor.” I have acute suspicions in all of you.

What does silence equate to when no challenges to words and actions of discrimination and hatred are expressed in board of education functions? What does silence equate to when elected members of the board of education cannot recognize words and actions of discrimination and hatred?

Is it time to make changes in the membership of the board? Is it time for Charles Bireley to withdraw his name as a candidate for another term on the school board? It is time for Donna Mitchell to resign her position on the board of education as a result of her ethic violations and misuse of her elected position. It is a good time for Barry Dean to walk in the shoes of the parents of our 3- and 4-year-old children in Project Village. I will gladly walk with you. It is time to begin the healing of our school district and become focused on the superior education of all our children.

Seriously consider these steps to begin the healing in our Indian River School District:

1. Cease your school prayer practices at school board meetings and functions immediately. You are called to go into a “closet” together and pray, but do not bring it to the attending public school body.

2. Accept the lawsuit by the families you chased away as justifiable.

3. Personally pay the cost to our school district for your role in causing this lawsuit. Your actions were not proper functions of an elected public school board. You are classified as an employee of the State of Delaware and subject to the rules of the Delaware State Board of Public Integrity. Your actions were intentional and very self serving. It was a private trip and not one for the taxpayers.

4. Make a public and personal apology to the individuals of the law suit for your actions. Make a public and personal apology to all the religious and non-religious groups in our school district for your school prayer “shell game” for you have offended many.

5. Expressions of discrimination and demeaning commentary cannot go unchallenged. Training in ethnic, religious sensitivity and the legal requirements of the public school system must be mandatory for all members of the board and its committee members annually.

6. Donna Mitchell must make a personal and public apology to the district parents, administrators and educators of our district for her demeaning, destructive, divisive and intentional misrepresentation of IRSD fiscal and personnel matters.

7. Identify in the direct mailings to school families, place ads in local newspapers and radio stations the approved cuts in education services specific to each school and program through out our District prior to March 28, 2006. Everyone must see the effects of our financial setting, the “legal and equitable” distribution of these cuts and your decisions.

8. You must decide what is more important….your personal needs or the education for all our children.

Lloyd Elling
Ocean View

Companies need to be monitored on behavior

Recently, Fortune magazine published an article about General Motors Corporation. It reported that the company, which pays health insurance for over a million retirees and employees, will be bankrupt in 2007 if low sales continue. My dad, a WWII vet and 35-year employee of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, lost his health benefits a few years ago. Rumors are circulating that his monthly pension is on the chopping block, too.

I am really scared for the elderly in our country. If Bethlehem Steel and General Motors are allowed to simply do away with retirements and promised health benefits, what other corporations will follow? Were not the retirement funds supposed to be separate from the general funds? Where are the laws and enforcement officials that should be protecting the office and blue collar workers? And, who pray tell, is getting the proceeds from the sale of all of Bethlehem’s waterfront property? Stock holders, I suspect, is the answer.

All of the Congressional representatives for Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania need to be contacted by anyone receiving health and/or retirement benefits from a major corporation. Like a deck of cards, your company could be next. Think about it.

Anne E. Green

Fenwick council is making odd decisions

The Fenwick Island Town council meetings continue to provide amusement. Most of the council members rail against “McMansions” under the pretense of “preserving green space and the old character” of the town. At the same time, the have announced 230 properties (approximately one-third of the town’s structures) are possible tear-downs. This doesn’t sound like we really want to maintain the “old character” of the town. Council continues to restrict property rights, devaluing the property for a population mostly unaware or unavailable during the winter months.

In the meantime, council freely spent $8,800 from taxpayer monies on plans for a “McMansion” Town Hall, which might end up being 9,000, 7,000 or 5,000 square feet.

The irony is council plans to finance this building with the Realty Transfer Tax money generated by the larger homes that are replacing the older structures or teardowns.

Does anyone see the hypocrisy of limiting the size of homes to preserve the “trees and air” while planning to build a large town hall for a community of a few hundred people? Not to mention the proposal by DNREC to restrict property rights. This will allow them to control almost all of Fenwick Island on the pretense of “protecting the beach”.

Stay tuned, as I’m sure there is more to come!

E. Wayne Lednum
Fenwick Island

Hocker impressed with community interest
Editor’s Note: The following letter was addressed as an open letter to residents of the 38th District.

Dear 38th District Constituents,

In order to give more constituents the opportunity to voice their concerns or ask questions regarding the issues of our district and state, I have been offering “Coffee’s On Me” events, which are usually held at Hocker’s Grocery & Deli, but open to the public. I offer this so anyone can feel free to come and talk to me in a friendly, informal setting.

The past events have been quite successful, with attendance growing each time. The questions asked and concerns that are discussed have shown that we have residents that are very interested and involved in their growing communities. It is great to see this much participation.

I want to thank everyone who turned out for today’s “Coffee’s On Me” (Tuesday, Feb. 28). Some of the issues raised today included the Delmarva Power rate increase and alternatives, the Indian River Inlet Bridge construction, Holt’s Landing boat ramps, infrastructure not keeping up with our growth, DelDOT funding problems and, of course, the Assawoman Canal dredging. Other issues included bike safety, deer management, tax ditches and sewer connections. I know I answered many questions and will work to resolve many issues brought to my attention. I have been given the insight from my constituents to carry back with me to Dover to represent them when I return to the next legislative session in mid-March.

I hope you will try to attend the next “Coffee’s On Me” and show your support of the District. Be sure to look for the advertisements of the events. Please know that I welcome you to contact me at any time if I can be of any assistance (local office number: 537-6016).

Gerald W. Hocker
38th District State Representative

LDAF supports other board’s referendum

On behalf of the Lower Delaware Autism Foundation, I am writing to express our strong support for Cape Henlopen School District’s referendum for major capital improvements. The project will benefit all students and provide exciting new educational opportunities.

There is nothing more important for our future than our children and their education. The proposed improvements are not only long overdue — they are necessary to accommodate the growth in our community. The numbers of children with autism entering the Sussex Elementary Consortium are growing each year. The proposed renovations and exciting new features, such as a state-of-the-art area to teach functional life skills to our children, new swim center and vocational wing, are critical additions for the special-needs population.

Our mission at LDAF is to ensure our children with autism have the best opportunity to achieve meaningful and productive lives. This philosophy goes hand-in-hand with the proposed improvements that will facilitate an educational environment that enables all students to achieve personal excellence. The Lower Delaware Autism Foundation urges you to vote for our children and support the referendum.

Rudy Beitzel, President
Lower Delaware Autism Foundation