Leavin' on a jet plane

Just a note to let you know that I have always looked forward to reading anything written by Christina Rees ("Cheers and tallyho," February 17). I'm sure it comes as no surprise that the Dallas visual-art scene is in short supply of writers who inject passion, insight, objectivity, and gutsy criticism into their art reviews. Cultural relevance in contemporary art is not only essential, it's also a great way to engage readers, hence broadening the arts audience. Miss Rees filled her reviews with references to television, rock and roll, art history, politics, and pop culture, while managing to disregard the gossip of the local art scene. It made for some good reads.

So farewell, Christina. Thanks for engaging me and so many others with your weekly reviews of some of the country's best talent, yeah, right here in our own back yard. Thanks for covering the young 'uns: Brian Fridge, Ted Kincaid, Good/Bad Art Collective, and on and on...you'll be missed.

Marty Walker
Via e-mail

Crummy teachers

I am not a regular reader of the Dallas Observer. However, I read Jim Schutze's article "Why Johnny's in the dumpster" in the February 17 issue, and I want to compliment you on a job well done. It has been obvious to a lot of us for a long, long time that the principal reason DISD is doing such a poor job in educating our young folks is that DISD has inferior teachers. Throwing more money at the problem won't help unless it is coupled with a merit-based hiring system, raises for competent teachers, and a significant reduction of freeloaders at the administrative level.

Lin Barbee
Via e-mail

Learning experience

Jonathan Fox's January 27 article ("No class") regarding Washington Elementary School, an Edison partnership school in Sherman, Texas, provides a welcome opportunity to clarify some misconceptions about Edison Schools.

In his article, Mr. Fox readily cites numerous positive results from Edison's partnership with the Sherman school district. Yet despite the clear achievements made by the school under our management, the author is reluctant to give Edison any of the credit.

In addition to Sherman, Edison has made excellent progress in implementing a comprehensive, rich, and ambitious program in schools all over the country. Edison students nationwide have shown significant academic improvement. Moreover, students, parents, and teachers consistently express high satisfaction with our schools.

Highlights of the Edison school design include a longer school day and year; an organization structure based on smaller school-within-schools and teaching teams; a rich and challenging curriculum; diverse instructional strategies; an assessment system that provides real accountability; strong partnerships with families; ongoing professional development for teachers; extensive use of technology; and the advantages of system and scale. In fact, as Mr. Fox's article indicates, Edison's introduction of these innovations prompted many of the reform efforts in Sherman Unified School District.

Although our contractual relationship with the Sherman school district is coming to a close, we are pleased with the progress and many achievements made by Washington students and staff during the last five years. The contract with the Sherman school district was our first, and we believe this has been an important and valuable learning experience for both parties.

In the next few years, we plan to establish new partnerships with school districts and community-based organizations throughout the country that are looking for an innovative and proven educational model to address the needs of their schoolchildren. The fact is, however, that we cannot attain our goals alone. We look to our partners -- parents, school boards, districts, and unions, as well as other community organizations -- to help fulfill our commitment to provide every Edison student with a world-class education.

Gaynor McCown
Vice President of Corporate Strategies
Edison Schools


I don't find it surprising at all that the folks at Texas A&M are getting flustered by Frito-Lay's decision to stop using genetically modified corn ("Fooling with Mother Nature," February 10). These are the same folks that say it's OK to use chemical pesticides on farms and lawns. Ask Fort Worth about the levels of pesticides in their water supply. (Honey, get me a glass of Diazinon, please!)

Mr. John Mullet is upset that companies like Frito-Lay are saying no to genetically modified food crops for reasons "not based on good scientific data." OK, so where is the data that says these Frankenfoods will have no long-term detrimental effects on public health? The data doesn't exist because they just don't know what can happen in the future.

As for farmers, it is ironic that they want to champion these GM products and the companies that make them. Monsanto, for instance, came out with this brilliant idea called "terminator" seed technology. The crop seeds render themselves sterile after planting, preventing farmers from saving seeds for the following year's crops. Neat, huh? The giant chemical company seems to have abandoned this technological "advance" for the time being, anyway.

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