MINNEAPOLIS SCHOOLS

Respect the risk-takers

As a parent of a Minneapolis public schools first-grader, I was pleased to read Jan. 16 that the teachers' union voted to approve a measure that will allow school principals some say in hiring teachers, as opposed to needing to strictly adhere to teacher seniority. Our daughter's school, Whittier IB School, has implemented the "interview and select" process, and it works!

I was very proud to see that my daughter's teacher, Melissa Anderson, stood up and spoke up for the change allowing principals to "interview and select." It was reported that she was booed and hissed.

Thank you to Melissa for being a risk-taker and standing up to speak with integrity, knowing that there were teachers who did not agree with her. To those who booed and hissed: At Whittier IB School, there are 12 "attitudes" that the students are encouraged and expected to display. These include tolerance, integrity and respect. In addition, students are encouraged to be risk-takers. I hope that if a student in your classroom got up and spoke from their heart and with integrity, you would not permit the other students to boo and hiss them.

Above all, I am grateful that the students at Whittier have a role model like Melissa, and many other great teachers who live the attitudes that are being taught.

PATTY SCHMITZ, MINNEAPOLIS

CHAPLIN AT ORCHESTRA HALL

It was his score

We need to set a record straight. Critic Randy Beard recently reviewed the Minnesota Orchestra's performance of Charlie Chaplin's "City Lights" (Review, Jan. 17) and wrote that there were moments when the orchestra and film were out of sync, "as when the trombones onscreen started playing -- before the trombones onstage."

In fact, we played exactly what Charlie Chaplin -- who also composed the music -- wrote in his score: a full measure's rest when the onscreen band starts playing. I think Chaplin knew that audiences would hear the silent orchestra with their imagination before the real accompaniment began.

I'll be the first to admit no performance is ever perfect. But a musician can't go wrong following the composer's wishes, and that is exactly what our trombones did.

OSMO VANSKA, MINNEAPOLIS;

MUSIC DIRECTOR, MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA

When in Afghanistan

Westerner, behave

The clueless arrogance of Americans and other Westerners in Afghanistan is absolutely mind-boggling! The Jan. 16 article regarding the Taliban attacks on Westerners notes that there are "about a half dozen restaurants popular with Westerners. The establishments do not allow Afghans entry because they serve alcohol, which is illegal for Muslims here."

This is their country, so why is it necessary for us to consume banned alcohol in a restaurant in which they are not allowed? How would we feel in this country if foreigners came here, took over some of our best restaurants, banned entry to our own citizens and set up heroin dens? As the song goes, "When will we ever learn?"

DESTA HUNT, FERGUS FALLS, MINN.

WANTED: KIDNEY DONORS

Try a tax incentive

Regarding Jonathan Gaw's Jan. 13 Q&A with Dr. Arthur Matas: Perhaps a better approach than paying donors for kidneys would be to offer a federal tax credit of $250 ($500 if filing jointly) for taxpayers agreeing on their tax return to donate their organs if they should happen to die in the next tax year.

My guess is that most healthy individuals would take the tax credit once they consider the statistical improbability of dying within the next tax year. Also, any adult filer should be eligible for the tax credit regardless of health (damaged/diseased organs surely would have use for training and research). I believe a tax credit for donors would change a five- to six-year waiting list to a surplus of healthy available organs within a short time and have the advantage of a central database of organ donors.

GREG P. BEDARD, BROOKLYN PARK

Everyone wins

As a 31-year-old with the most common life-threatening genetic kidney disease (polycystic kidney disease), there is a good chance I will need a transplant in the next 25 years. My husband is a willing donor.

But if he is not a blood-type or tissue match, a compensation system would allow him to give his healthy kidney to another kidney patient in a trade for a kidney that is suitable for me. This program would also eliminate the dangerous and unregulated underground market for kidneys.

MELISSA A. MOLIN, CHASKA

BARREN BEAUTY

Only in North Dakota

North Dakota's governor should relax! After reading the National Geographic article, my wife and I are planning a trip to see that exact area. The photographs of abandoned buildings and desolate landscapes were indeed "lovely and moving," as Charles Bowden wrote. Now perhaps, along with the state's boom in oil and agriculture, tourism will pick up dramatically, too.

RON STEVENS, MINNEAPOLIS