Fire agency wastes barrels of money

The proponents of Yes on Measure A would have us believe that all that money has saved them from another firestorm. But the Wildlife Prevention District is awash in money, even while the board now wants more, evidently for a project manager (at $116,000 to $143,000).

It's not for hands-on training in the use of fire hoses and hydrants, which we were once offered long ago. Not for more goats. Not for more vegetation management, as that is running a large surplus. Indeed, the whole budget, stuffed as it is with overheads, "education" and "outreach," inspections and assessment of inspections, has come out with huge surpluses.

If you want a pig in a poke, vote "yes." If you want to prevent fires, cut back the trees in your own back yard and try to press your neighbors for one-side-of-the-street parking.

Georgia Wright

Oakland

Ecological impact not vetted enough

The Montclarion should feature an article on the reasons many intelligent and concerned Oakland hills residents oppose the current fire district proposal. I am not closely involved in these issues and was disappointed that a recent article did not offer that information.

For me, the fire district issue is not whether it is a good idea to protect our lives and our property. What needs to be explained are the changes to the proposal that might be considered and the alternatives to accepting the current proposal.

My overwhelming personal concern is the clear-cutting and poisoning of eucalyptus trees. This is not the only, and likely not the best way, to prevent harmful fires. Side effects on the ecology of the area are not sufficiently vetted. People must get in the habit of looking at the issues, and not vote because of "yes" or "no" posters and postcards.

Marla Schmalle

Oakland

Montera Middle piece way off-base

On behalf of the Montera Middle School Parent Teacher Organization Board, we are greatly disappointed with the Oct. 9 article "Parents Voice Concerns with Montera Math Program," which not only leaves a skewed impression about Montera Middle School's implementation of Common Core Math, but also takes aim at the very nature of public education in general. Clarifications are in order:

  • Common Core State Standards is a national initiative led by the U.S. Education Department to establish clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in language arts and mathematics. Forty-six states have adopted Common Core, including California, and thousands of schools are transitioning to the new standards. Despite the oddly accusatory thrust of the article, Montera is not at the epicenter of the rollout. It is mandated to transition to Common Core and is simply striving to create a bridge between old and new curricula in the process, similar to many schools across the country.

  • Last winter, the Oakland Unified School District determined that Oakland middle schools, including Montera, will no longer offer seventh-grade accelerated math classes starting with the 2013-2014 school year, and instead will offer the opportunity for acceleration in eighth grade only.

  • Dr. Tranzor, Montera's principal, believed it was not fair to sixth-grade families to "change the rules" halfway through the year, particularly given Montera's legacy of seventh-grade acceleration. She chose to offer one accelerated class for a final year during this transition.

  • As noted in the article, meeting the acceleration criteria was exceedingly difficult. Some parents whose students did not qualify were distraught, and a few left the school in protest. Had they stayed, they would have understood two points:

    1. All seventh-graders will have the opportunity to accelerate in eighth grade based on criteria set by the district. If three or four classes of students qualify, then Montera will have three or four accelerated classes. Qualified students will not be left behind, even if they did not meet the criteria for this year's accelerated class.

    2. Differentiation is happening every day in the nonaccelerated classes. As an example, students who are up to the task are given challenge problems so complex they can take up to a week to solve.

  • The article went so far as to quote a parent bemoaning the fact that Montera's academically strong and struggling students are placed in the same classes. Yes, they are. This is public education. We do not track. We do not believe separate but equal is equal. With skilled teachers in the classroom, students can -- and do -- have their needs met.

    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to address the concerns brought up in the article that we feel are misguided, misinformed and anecdotal based on a very limited sample of unhappy parents. Montera offers a terrific middle school experience for students throughout Oakland.

    Debe Rapson and John Wade

    board co-presidents Parent Teacher Organization Montera Middle School