Letters for the week of July 4-10, 2007 

Readers comment on coverage of principal Ben Chavis and invasive species.

"Chavis in Hot Water," Full Disclosure, 6/6


Don't mess with us
I NEVER write in to newspapers. But I got to tell you, you are WAY off the mark here with American Indian Public Charter School.

Bottom line: Please don't "save" my child from getting a first-class education. Dr. Chavis and his school are one of the best things to happen to me and my family since moving to Oakland. My kid has blossomed under his care. If you want Chavis out so much, then please pay for my kid's private schooling. Because that is what this school is offering: a private school education without the snobbery. AIPCS is a meritocracy.

My child, a minority, went through the "A Better Chance" program and got invitations and offers of financial aid from all the private schools she applied to. She also was accepted at all the "Hill schools" that she applied to. We could have sent her to any of those schools. We chose to send her to AIPCS. Now, after her first year (sixth grade), she has demonstrably improved her academic achievement and her organizational skills. She does more homework in one day than I used to do in one week of school. At first, she had a hard time keeping up. Now, because AIPCS taught her to be organized, she can complete it every night without staying up late. Her sixth-grade teacher is a Ph.D graduate from Stanford! Where else are you going to get that in Oakland?

The school does not put up with drama. Don't be a fool and you won't be treated as one.

Stop screwing around with my school. Don't deprive my children of a first-class education. With all the problems in the Oakland School District, please stop messing with one of the few things that is actually working.
Ken Adler, Oakland


Better and better-looking
Chavis is a terrific principal and education leader. I know him well, and while he definitely marches to a different beat, no one can dispute the results at his school. When he took over, AIPCS was a disaster, about to lose its charter and ripped off by the hacks appointed to run it. That school got better and better-looking by the day. Students would address visitors as "sir" and ask to help people. What other Oakland school can boast the combination of good outcomes and order? The answer is none. I'm glad he takes on the liberal wackos who have run Oakland schools into the ground, and whose only answer for the problems they engineer is to ask for more money. I'm glad he rejects the phony proposals of quacks with backgrounds in ethnic studies, but absolutely no experience or ideas in actually running an organization.

The best thing about Ben is he rejects the flavor-of-the-month school reform schemes dreamed up by professional liars who have no experience in classroom management. Ben is an old-fashioned, rules-first disciplinarian. I salute Ben not only for his outstanding efforts to turn around this school but also for his personal bravery in facing down the hippies who want to ruin another school.
Manuel DePiedra, Castro Valley

"Invasion of the Bay Snatchers," Feature, 6/6


A serious subject
Great to see the article on the bay's serious invasive-species challenge. The Invasive Spartina Project provides an inspirational model for what can be done when expertise, collaboration, and funding are brought to bear on one of our most insidious environmental problems. It is indeed one of the biggest challenges "you've never heard of." Although the 1950s "alien invaders" theme is overused, and nobody is actually "bombing" Spartina along the bay shore, it seems we need tabloid metaphors to make the problem compelling.

The bay is chock-full of invasive species, and the rest of the state is not in great shape, either. From yellow star thistle in grasslands, giant reed on the stream banks, and French and Scotch broom in the woods, California's diverse habitats are threatened by a range of invasive plants. Ecologists worry about the impact on habitat health — society faces economic cost in terms of water, wildfire, recreation, and agriculture.

Not all invasive species are as yucky as the six-foot worm or the walk-across-land snake-headed fish. Many of the invasive plants we face are attractive (some arrived originally as ornamentals). And the professionals working on the issue are typically not "smell of napalm in the morning" people, but folks trained in restoring the ecological function of habitats. Though I enjoy the journalistic approach of playing up the parallels with war and sci-fi villains, we just have to hope that it makes readers take the issue more seriously and not less.
Doug Johnson, executive director, California Invasive Plant Council, Berkeley


Credit the voters
Thank you for your in-depth cover story highlighting the hard work being done to combat the invasive plants and animals that threaten the environment of San Francisco Bay. Your reporter, Eric Simons, noted that the Invasive Spartina Project is "flush with funding," but he didn't say where most of it is coming from: bond acts approved by California's voters since 2000 and awarded by the Coastal Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Board. The forward-thinking people of the Bay Area, where the bond acts were overwhelmingly approved, deserve a lot of credit for our success.
Maxene Spellman, manager, Invasive Spartina Project, State Coastal Conservancy, Oakland


Buy him lunch
I am writing to commend the author of "Invasion of the Bay Snatchers." What a wonderful article. It was informative, it was interesting, and most importantly, it was well written. You should give that man a raise. Or at least buy him lunch.
Kali Peterson, Berkeley

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