You're Out!

To the Editor,

I am writing in response to your article about Safehouse in the Best of Tucson issue ("Best Teen Scene," September 23 ). The fact that you call Safehouse a "teen scene" kind of makes me wonder why. You see, whenever a group of 15- to 18-year-old kids go to Safehouse, they are inevitably asked to leave, for good. It's happened to me and at least three other groups of kids that I know.

My friends and I would go to visit Jay and Aaron at least once a day, and one day they asked us to leave, and never really let us come back. They have become the "Coffee Militia" and have given us Tucson youths one less place to go. Now this is why Tucson has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the US.

-- A. Weiss

P.S. I'm sure the Velvet Tea Garden enjoys our business.

No Substitute

To the Editor,

Regarding "Teacher's Pet Peeve" (Mailbag, September 23): Much has been said and written about how regular classroom teachers are overworked and underpaid, and now the public should be aware of an equally serious problem in the school system regarding substitute teachers.

I have a college degree (required for subs in Arizona) and have worked for much of 13 years as a bilingual substitute teacher. It doesn't take a higher education, however, to comprehend why there is such a shortage of us. I, in fact, just decided to go on strike, because the upper echelon of administration is so self-possessed and obsessed with its own power and pay raises that it has neglected what should be the main concern: the care and proper education of the children by the peace-builders on the front lines in the classroom.

Substitute teachers are seemingly the lowest on the chain of school employees, always without benefits, yet we are professionals who fill a critical void when regular teachers have family crises, are ill, pregnant, or even non-existent. We are certainly not baby-sitters nor merely "teachers-in-waiting" for permanent placement. Some of us have family situations which do not allow us to work full time, or have our own part-time businesses, involvements or other jobs. If we were simply looking for easy work and a decent wage we would most definitely not seek employment in a school environment. It would be almost our last choice, sadly. Yet we must possess or quickly develop a large number of complex skills to survive the demands of our profession. We must be extremely adaptable, patient and creative to deal with classroom management, curriculum, sudden changes, and often unfamiliar students, staff and procedures. And children can be and usually are more challenging than usual when faced with a "stranger" for a time. We are often called into a bare classroom at the beginning of the school year and must spend many free overtime hours scrambling to gather materials, plan lessons, organize groups, make assessments, and help evaluate individual students' needs for special services. I and many others have done it all because we care about the education of children and the future of society. My finances were never my first consideration, although it was depressing and frustrating to know I was never fairly compensated, even with an excellent reputation.

But now I'm also discouraged that, despite years of dedication and hard work, I am deemed monetarily just above the migrant worker and far below a housekeeper or a groundskeeper.

This year I was asked to begin the school year as a bilingual second grade teacher, with full teacher duties and responsibilities, in the Sunnyside District. The usual pitiful rate of pay is $56 per day for the first 15 days in the same assignment. In order to do a proper job, any teacher must spend a good 10 hours per day in the classroom and usually another two in the evening at home, which I was. This translates to $4.66 an hour, with no benefits and before taxes. On the 16th day the wages increase to $85 per day, but at 12 hours per day this is still only $7.08 an hour. I put in a special request for at least the higher rate of pay from day one. This request was turned down, even after I spoke to the school superintendent personally. She makes more than $90,000 a year and reigns in a locked inner-office sanctum.

The SUSD motto is "Children First," and my big question is "Whose children?" Certainly not the ones in my care whom I worked so hard to teach.

School Board policies need to be changed and wages raised to keep and entice hard working, qualified professionals -- for the children. Administrative salaries are exorbitant and must be lowered. Parents, teachers, substitute teachers and classified personnel must work together for stronger unions and sweeping reforms.

-- Ann Embury

They'll Be Back

To the Editor,

Thanks to Tom Danehy for the excellent piece on the Amphi-Sabino football rivalry ("Cat Fight," October 7). Sabino was clearly the better team and deserved to win, this time, but we'll be back. I can't wait for the inevitable playoff match-up with somebody like Mesa Mountain View so we can see how good they really are. I doubt if they would have won all those championships in 5A.

As an aside, one couldn't help notice the dozens of signs lining the entryway to Sabino's field. Even the poster cheerleaders held for the team to run through carried advertising rather than the expected "Beat Amphi." One item read: "This Space Available"; I wanted to gag.

Keep up the good work. Go Panthers!

-- William C. Thornton