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Real stories happen because of news, not because Phyllis Orrick decides to create "news."

Rabbi Bentziyon Pil
Richmond District

The School Bus Runaround
My thanks as a former public school parent to Lisa Davis for a dead-on summary of a major problem with the city's public school system ("Bus to Nowhere," April 2).

My daughter attended an alternative school through third grade. She got in through the OER lottery as part Hispanic in a school that was at its 40 percent limits for black and white students. The mix of people was great. But there's a huge downside to the system.

Kids have to get up earlier for the bus ride across town. They start class irritable and unfocused, apart from whatever behavioral baggage they bring from home. A disproportionate amount of class time is spent on building self-esteem and teaching conflict resolution. Resources are scarce for kids without learning or emotional problems.

The kids naturally divide into groups by race. No hostility, just shared experience. Pickups and drop-offs across town are hard on parents, especially those with no car.

Imagine you're a single parent in Bayview and you're invited to attend a parent meeting at your child's school in the Haight. You worked all day and you're beat. Or you don't have a car. Or you don't feel comfortable in a room full of soccer moms with more money than you who talk fast, dominate the meeting, and demand more volunteer time you don't have. Meanwhile, the same six parents who show up all the time complain about lack of parent involvement.

John Flores is absolutely right that teachers and administrators need to work with families, not just with children. At the same time, teachers and principals can't be expected to undo years of poverty, racism, and family dysfunction in their off hours.

So all we have to do, then, is overhaul the consent decree and Title I ... roll back Prop. 13 ... fully implement Prop. 98 ... and go to the wall on work rules with the teachers' unions and the district bureaucrats. Sure. We're not busy.

By the way, Bill Rojas is conspicuously absent from Davis' article. Why is that?

Niels Erich

It's Academic
You missed the mark. The cover and accompanying story on Bernard Temple in the March 26 edition ("Portrait of the Soul-Jacker") was nothing more than a fluff piece used to incite further racism, fear, and hatred in a society already overwrought with enough of both to last several lifetimes. What gives at SF Weekly? Every edition is another inflammatory story focused on some other already disenfranchised group of folks: youth in the juvenile justice system, African-American "gangbangers," and ACT UP queers.

What is the purpose of focusing on one individual and his criminal record? The more compelling story is the story of poverty, racism, and isolation of Bayview-Hunters Point, which leaves people with few other opportunities than violent gang life. The problem is not a few individuals' behavior. The problem is the utter lack of opportunity and a system that repeatedly failed Bernard Temple and others like him. We, the community, failed Bernard Temple. We, the community, must take responsibility. It would be much more interesting if you were to write a story about that.

When you write stories about one individual and attempt to pathologize that individual, you do nothing to make change. Instead, focus on the myriad of programs that are working to reduce violence.

John Wiskind
UC Berkeley School of Public Health

Editor's Note: Hey, John, write us another note after you've moved to Bayview-Hunters Point and lived with the decent people who are victimized on a regular basis by the likes of Bernard Temple.

Literary Lites
As a member of the San Francisco Literary Society I found Matt Smith's article ("Bankers Book Bucks," Bay View, April 2) to be yet another example of writing a story for sensationalism. In one visit he has concluded that the goal for all involved is mostly monetary and little literary. Join the real world, Mr. Smith! There usually are secondary purposes in most of what people do (and not just "urbane-minded millionaires"). However, I can assure your readers that the major purpose of the group is in fact literary and we are happy that such a forum exists.

Furthermore, I have never been approached by Northern Trust officials for business purposes. As a lawyer and recently retired law professor, I am sure that I could fend for myself if I were approached. Perhaps Smith might consider a second visit. Even restaurant reviewers do that much.

Richard L. Grant
Pacific Heights

Shit Has a Fan
SF Weekly, in true tabloid journalism style, managed to completely miss the point in the cover article "Men Behaving Viciously" (March 19). The portrayals of the ACT UP San Francisco activists were one-dimensional at best, faulting the activists as if they concocted their frustration out of thin air.

San Francisco AIDS Foundation Executive Director Pat Christen is painted as the innocent victim of a group of lunatic, vindictive, phlegmatic, kitty-poop-tossing psychos. Nowhere in the article is the bigger picture presented. For instance, during her tenure as executive director, Christen has intimidated and fired union members and activist employees. Of particular concern is her cutting of bilingual/bicultural services.

Chicano AIDS activist Ronnie Burk had his own reasons for tossing cat litter at Christen, but it is untrue that he screamed that she should die while he did so. Burk yelled that Christen didn't deserve $140,000 a year, and that has been recorded on video.

Anyone who keeps treatment out of the hands of sick people, discriminates against patients and workers because of their native language or ethnicity, or sits it out on company time while people are dying deserves to have dump trucks of spit, shit, and whatever else tossed his or her way.


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