He and his crew put out a fire in below-zero weather recently. They went into a building full of smoke in full gear, carrying over 40 pounds of gear, including an oxygen supply that lasts only 30 minutes. As they left the building to switch out crews and get more oxygen, they were drenched with water from the sprinkler heads while entering the wind and cold in the middle of the night. They had to remove their instantly frozen masks to be able to breathe, exposing their wet faces as they looked for a place to thaw their masks (the truck exhaust?).

One firefighter stated: “I think I understand why people freeze to death. Without the prompt of the lit-up, big, red truck, it was tempting to just lie down and give up. I was that cold.”

This is his job. Thanks, Minneapolis firefighters, for doing a truly difficult job. We depend on you and we appreciate you.

If there is a service that I want for my family from the government, it’s a crew that can fight a fire in the middle of the winter in the middle of the night and stay alive doing it. Let’s support our Fire Department by providing equipment that allows them to safely fight fires in our climate. It’s been Minnesota here for as long as I can remember.

Cheryl Heitkamp, Minneapolis


If schools were run like businesses …

Kudos to a Feb. 25 letter writer and his comments on the dilemma of teachers vs. tenure (“We must stop seeing seniority as either/or”). I do not believe we should measure teachers based on years of performance. We can and have spent billions of dollars to have the best school buildings and best computers, but it is teachers’ primary responsibility to educate our children. Tenure is not a measure of how well they are doing this.

I am not saying that today’s testing methods are the ultimate way of measuring student achievement, but we need a set of measurements to define how well the instructor/student process is working. If we can identify what goes into that yardstick, we can truly measure how well a teacher is performing.

Thus, performance standards would be established. I do believe that there has to be a way to shelter well-paid teachers with a high-performance standard if school budgets become tight. As an individual who spent a career in the business world, I have witnessed high-performing, well-paid employees who were dumped during tight times and replaced with an inexpensive individual.

The teachers union should be supportive of this type of process, in that it will not impact the union’s revenue stream or membership numbers. We will still require the same number of teachers, and maybe more.

Remember, it is not about having the best school building, the most students, the highest-paid teachers or the best sports team. It’s about having students who graduate from school who can read, do math, communicate effectively and become productive members of society. If that’s not happening, shouldn’t we as taxpayers be asking why not?

Bill Winters, Brooklyn Park

• • •

I’m glad that the Legislature wants to improve public education, but this current discussion about teacher layoffs? It’s like your car needs new tires and new brakes and has a scratch on the door panel, and you spend all your time and energy on the scratch.

Mark Brandt, Minneapolis



St. Paul’s formula and the school board’s role

Along with fellow parents and caregivers of students in St. Paul Public Schools, my husband and I enthusiastically greeted the hiring of Superintendent Valeria Silva, with her deep background in the district and our neighborhoods. As Scott Burns’ Feb. 25 commentary (“Why urban schools need lasting leadership”) highlights, the length of her tenure is atypical among large school districts and continuity matters. However, Burns’ commentary blends election politics and the superintendent role in a way that serves neither.

Many parents believe St. Paul school board members seeking re-election this year have not provided the leadership, transparency or partnership with school communities to support the outcomes Silva is working to realize. When Burns describes it as “[h]er ‘Strong Schools, Strong Communities’ strategy,” he indicates the extent to which board members have unloaded the most fundamental and difficult elements of the district’s long-range plan onto the superintendent. She should not have to shoulder their work and responsibility.

Great cities support and develop their young people with great schools. The schools that Burns holds up as successful exceptions to trends of decline for students of color are attended by less than 5 percent of our district’s students. Having more engaged leaders on the board will strengthen prospects to accomplish what we all want for all students — that St. Paul schools lead the way as the place where there are no longer any gaps, only achievement.

Beth Commers, St. Paul



They’re a menace and must be controlled

I said it before and I’ll say it again: Minnesota needs a bounty on coyotes. They are killing our pets, they are killing our wildlife and they are killing our livestock. They are at a point where their population has gotten out of hand. Now they have to be removed from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, endangering us! (“Airport workers kill coyote running loose on runways,” StarTribune.com, Feb. 25). We can’t afford to cow down to the anti-hunters and the animal-rights zealots. We need to make a move and put a price on coyotes’ pelts.

Dave Colburn, Hayfield, Minn.



Just know no one’s coming for your lamps

Star Tribune readers should understand that people who are concerned about light pollution are not trying to limit the use of household electric lighting or to reduce energy consumption (Readers Write, Feb. 23 and 25).

“Light pollution” refers to wasted light energy that does nothing to improve night vision because it is being aimed or reflected into the sky, not at anything at ground level. It is this wasted light energy that makes it difficult to see the stars and planets in the nighttime sky within the metro area.

Eliminating light pollution would have virtually no impact on security lighting, etc. In fact, light-pollution-reducing fixtures are designed to eliminate glare, and by eliminating glare, actually improve night vision. See the International Dark-Sky Association website (www.darksky.org) for more explanations and pictures.

Bruce White, St. Paul