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Letters to the Editor

December 24, 2005

To Whoever Stole The Inflatable Santa Homer Off Our Front Lawn:

Merry Christmas. I just hope if and when you have young children, you have to explain to them that it's a fact of life that there are bad people in the world. And bad people are the kind of people who steal your favorite Christmas decoration.

That was the first decoration our now-3-year-old son ever picked out in a store. He loved it. Every day he waited for daddy to come home and ask if he could turn on Homer. Then run to the window to see him "stand-up." The smile on his face was priceless.

And you took it TWO days before Christmas Day. I hope you're proud.

Gerard Gagliardi

December 19, 2005

Get Real: Santa's Not Jesus

In an online article about protesters picketing a California Wal-Mart to protest the removal of "Christmas" from the corporate chain's advertising, I read the following:

"Dick Otterstad of the Church of the Divide donned a Santa Claus costume and greeted shoppers with the message: Don't forget about the meaning of Christmas.

"'It is insulting that Wal-Mart has chosen to ignore the reason for the season,'" Otterstad said. "'Taking the word 'Christmas' out of the holiday implies there's something sinful about it. ... This is a part of our culture.'"

So, the protester dons a Santa suit (Santa Claus being no part of the Jesus-being-born story that the Christian holiday commemorates and celebrates) in order to remind shoppers about "the meaning of Christmas." And he's doing so at a commercial establishment for which all the winter holidays are one of their primary money-making times.

Seems to me that what Mr. Otterstad really thinks is the meaning of Christmas is the birth of Mammon, not Jesus.

I am not a Christian, but I have studied enough about various religions to know (if not to feel) the significance of the Christmas holy day. And spending lots of money at Wal-Mart isn't part of that significance, any more than a 19th century creature from a poem is part of that significance.

Yes, the three kings according to the biblical story gave gifts, but not to each other. The gifts were brought as homage to the sacred child. Now, if the things people would be buying at Wal-Mart were to be given to the baby Jesus, perhaps these protesters could make their case

I suggest it's the protesters who are where the "sinful" thinking is actually occurring. Otterstad is right that making money by getting people to buy gifts for other people is "part of our culture" -- but it has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas as a holy day celebrating the birth of what Christians believe to be their savior. But since they are protesting stores that are not using the birth of Jesus as a money-making come-on, one has to wonder how "Christian" these protesters really are.

To those of you who are Christians and celebrate the sacredness of the day, may your holiday be truly holy. To those of you for whom this is a religious time of a different sort, may your holy days bring you joy. To those of you for whom this is a joyous but secular season, may you enjoy the holidays. And to all, a happy new year and a good night.

Mari Bonomi

December 17, 2005

Thanks, Eddie

While I read Eddie Burt's article I thought to myself that I wished more Hamden High students could read this article ("Hamden Will Always Be Home"). How many times do I hear students complain about this and that at HHS? Forget the complaining and start absorbing.

How quickly our years in high school fly by. HHS students need to realize how lucky they are. Many students don't realize the many opportunities and resources that HHS possesses. My high school never had a swimming pool, football stadium, track, baseball field or a state-of-the-art auditorium for plays, concerts, events. Not to mention a hockey rink. I had to take a bus to swim practice every day. Look at how many clubs are available -- SADD, HRC, ski club, MADD, Frisbee, etc. Come on; get with the program. These are excellent clubs, although not sure about the mental stimulation or future value of a Frisbee club (maybe it looks good on the resume for physics majors).

As a parent of four children and a high school biology teacher in a different district, I can honestly say I have met some great, no excellent, teachers and coaches at the neighborhood schools in Hamden, and especially at HHS. I can honestly say that many teachers and coaches have touched and influenced my children's lives greatly. Have I met some bad ones? Of course. But I choose to remember and take advantage of the excellent teachers and coaches. For those are the ones that can change lives, as in the case of Eddie Burt. Take advantage of the resources, teachers and coaches at HHS, because some day it will just be a memory. Remember, as Bruce Springsteen sings "This is your hometown …" as Eddie Burt eloquently stated.

Great article Eddie. Thanks.

Gil Cyr
Whitney Avenue

December 16, 2005

To Each, His or Her Own Holiday

This is a response to the gentleman who wrote about the secularists "taking away" Christmas from "everything" ("It's My Right to Say Merry Christmas -- MERRY CHRISTMAS!") I am not a secularist, but I do believe that we should be respectful of as many people (and creatures) as possible.

I was up all night thinking about this since I received e-mails from two different people telling me "Merry Christmas" when I don't even celebrate Christmas. This is the problem. People, namely Christians, believe that everyone is Christian (even though I was raised Catholic, I have parted ways with the Catholic church and faith for various reasons). This is wrong! Not everyone in the world, the United States, the city, the schools is Christian. Even some Christians do not celebrate Christmas.

So, it is not that secularists want "Merry Christmas" to go by the wayside. It is just that humans don't want to be lumped together as one. Many of us believe that we are all together, but very few of us understand and celebrate the differences within the whole.

In ending, "Happy holidays!" because we all can celebrate our own holidays.

Jennifer Drury


Bush, O'Reilly Do Good; Carusone Does Bad

Mayor Carusone, there are millions of people in this country who think President Bush did the correct thing concerning Iraq ("Clinton Did Sex; Bush Does Murder"). There are also millions of people in Iraq that think President Bush did the correct thing concerning their country and their freedom. The Iraqi people are no longer ruled by a deranged man, and if we didn't go there would they be voting today? I don't think so!

Mayor Carusone, freedom comes at a high cost of lives. We have lost over 2,000 troops in Iraq because they are fighting for Iraq's freedom. How many Iraqis have died for their freedom? I think you would agree with me Mayor Carusone, more than 2,000.

How many lives were lost when we fought the British for our freedom? I wonder what you would have said if you lived in that period of time. You may have said let's stop the unnecessary war, we can find a political settlement to this war. Now if we lost the war to the British, would you be able to write about the king as you write about our President Bush? Again, I don't think so.

Mayor Carusone, you do remember Word War II and the OSS? The OSS is today's CIA. OSS agents were dropped into Germany by parachute and some could not speak German. The person on the ground who was waiting for that OSS agent to arrive spoke German and both of them did their mission and that mission was to kill or destroy targets in Germany. I think today's terrorists could do their mission without speaking English when they have help from people living here in the United States of America.

Mayor Carusone, you write about history. Do you include what Presidents Kennedy and Clinton did sexually in the White House, or do you rewrite history? From your writings I see you rewrite history to suit your needs, so please don't call yourself a historian. You are just an opinionated person.

If Billy O'Reilly from the Fox News channel read your writings I think he would tell you to stop drinking the Kool-Aid. LOL

Thomas Alegi
Benham Street

December 14, 2005

Spec Ed Classrooms Unnecessarily Pricey

In response to your recent article on the progress of the Hamden Middle School ("Name This School") you state that there was parent opposition to the special ed classrooms. I was the parent that opposed the design and would like to clarify what I was against.

These are two contained special ed classrooms where eight to10 students will spend the majority of their day. These rooms are not used by any other classes during the day. HMS started a new program this year for special ed children that is a functional life skills program. This is a program that the BOE was paying $40,000 per year to place children outside the school system for, prior to this school year. This is also a program that is being done in regular middle schools throughout Connecticut.

There was never any design in the new HMS for this type of program, and during discussions about the windowless classrooms with the School Building Committee it was discovered that this was not in the design and needed to be changed. In North Haven Middle School, there is one classroom designed for the special ed life skills program and grades six, seven eight all rotate through this room. This program has been in operation for six years. The SBC wants to place kitchen facilities in these two contained classrooms where only eight children in each classroom will have access to the functional life skills facilities.

Special Ed Director Bill McGraw stated there will be 17 children next year in seventh-grade contained classrooms. Only one contained classroom will have life skills facilities in it. How do we accommodate the other children? It is also going to cost $30,000 to do these two rooms and now SBC Chair Curt Leng is requesting to "rough" a third room for future use if needed at an estimated cost of $15,000. These children do not need to have a kitchen in their room when they only use it one period a day. Is every classroom in HMS equipped with science facilities when children only take that class one period a day? My suggestion has always been to have one classroom in the new HMS designed as a special ed functional life skills room. Special Ed classes would have access to this room during the seven periods a day.

I have sat through many SBC meetings and tried to explain the purpose and use of the life skills program with no luck. Clearly the SBC doesn't understand this program but is willing to go ahead and spend more money than needed to design this. We keep spending money and building schools that don't meet the children's needs. Dunbar Hill and Bear Path schools were both built with special ed preschool rooms. Within two years the preschools were moved out of both schools. This cost the Hamden taxpayers money. Why can't the SBC save money and do this correctly?

They have listened to Bill McGraw speak at these meetings indicating that everything is fine. If everything was fine why didn't he ever notify the SBC of the need for a functional life skills room with a kitchen? This program was agreed to in May of this year. Why didn't Bill McGraw ever point out to the SBC that the majority of the rooms assigned to special ed were windowless? If the teachers at HMS knew their new rooms would have no windows how does the director of the department not know?

I have called Bill McGraw to discuss these rooms. His response was he would look into it and call me back. He never did.

My only reason for attending these SBC meetings was to make sure the children in the functional life skills program had the proper facilities at the lowest cost. That did not seem to work out.

Kathy Coughlin


It's My Right to Say Merry Christmas -- MERRY CHRISTMAS!

What have the secularists done to Christmas in our schools?

Let me define the word secularist: "An advocate of secularism; someone who believes that religion should be excluded from government and education."

First, secularists changed the name of our Christmas tree to the holiday tree in our schools and public places. Now they want to take the words "Merry Christmas" away from us, too. I really don't understand the problem, what is all the fuss about saying merry Christmas?

Secularists do not want us to say merry Christmas in our schools anymore. I cannot believe that is true. Come on now, what is wrong with the secularist? Do we not live in free America and do we not have freedom of speech and religion in this country? The secularists are trying to strip our freedoms away from us by making "Merry Christmas" unspoken words in our schools.

Seems like we are taking it sitting down; now my sitting spot is getting sore, so right here and right now I am not going to take it anymore. I will put lights on my Christmas tree and wish everyone a merry Christmas. That's the greeting you will receive from me and my family. As my Italian grandparents would say, "Buon Natale."

Thomas Alegi
Benham Street


Keep it Simple

I would be happy to see the new middle school dedicated to Hamden's veterans. However, I think the names "Hamden's Veterans' Middle School" and "Veterans' Memorial Middle School," for example, are far too cumbersome and would not gain general currency ("Name This School").

It is more than likely that whatever name is given to the school, it will be known as "The Middle School." Then, by omitting any mention of veterans when they referred to the school, parents, teachers and students would, unthinkingly, be showing disrespect for our veterans. Thus, I suggest that we stick with the tried and true, simple and straightforward "Hamden Middle School," while, at the same time, pledging to landscape and maintain the veterans' monument as a way of showing our continued respect for our veterans.

Ann M. Altman

December 13, 2005

It Depends Where the Blade Is

Concerning the variations in the quality of snow removal on different streets of Hamden, I have concluded that it is a matter of the operator not knowing the proper procedure in snow removal ("It Depends Where You Live"). If one were to notice the state plow crews, you would notice that the blade of the plow is lowered to actually come in contact with the pavement itself to allow a cleaner sweep of the snow.

I have seen Hamden crews plowing with the blade raised a bit; consequently a layer of about an inch or more is left on the pavement. The result is that when the storm is past, most side streets with much less traffic are left with ruts and bumps of frozen compact snow that should have been removed if proper blade height was engaged. If mild weather is not forthcoming, these streets will be a mess for many weeks to come.

I suggest that Mr. Velardi of Public Works check with the state Department of Transportation and inquire as to a standard that the state uses in snow removal. It may very well be a simple case of Hamden crews not knowing a more efficient way to plow streets. Councilwoman Callahan is on to something in her analysis of why some streets are clean and some terrible.

Frank Baldino
Washington Avenue

December 12, 2005

Are BOE Retreads Necessary?

I've been watching for the HDN to provide more follow-up to the issue of the Hamden school district using retired personnel rather than hiring new people.

I have some thoughts on the matter but was waiting to see if there were any definitive answers from the district office other than, "Well, this one isn't a consultant; that one isn't working for us any more."

While I won't argue with the premise that Hamden appears to be reserving the "consultant" positions for "insiders" from the system, I'd like to provide an alternative perspective as a retired teacher.

First of all, the maximum pension any member of Connecticut's teacher retirement system can earn is 75 percent of the average of the best three years' salary. And that 75 percent requires teaching 37.5 years in the state public schools. Any educator who is collecting that pension has more than earned it.

Secondly, there absolutely are legitimate reasons for using "insiders" -- the amount of time it takes an outsider to gear up, to learn the ropes, in short, to understand the policies and procedures of a given school district would pretty much render the outsider useless for a prolonged period of time in a position where there is a need to be active from the get-go. Especially in an area like special education where any misstep can leave a district wide open to a suit, having someone who actually knows what he or she is doing in that area is vital.

Thirdly, there is a serious shortage of experienced administrators not only locally but nationwide. In areas like fine arts (Joseph Juliano) and special education (Judith Lempkin), the shortage is even more severe. For the math teacher, the statute spells it out: he can earn a full salary because he's teaching in a shortage area. Would you prefer those students be taught by someone without a math background or without the knowledge of how to help students learn math? That is the other option: someone not certified to teach math. Hamden High Principal Vin Iezzi is working as an administrator -- an area of shortage.

On the other hand, raising questions about Hamden's efforts to find replacements is absolutely legitimate and I'm looking forward to seeing some better responses than "we posted it on the Internet." Why aren't ads being placed in professional journals and Education Week, the weekly education newspaper?

When the story first was published in the HDN, I checked Ed Week's Web site job postings. I discovered that Hamden has no administrative postings there. No listings at jobs.teachers.net. I wasn't about to waste more time looking for where on the Internet Hamden's job openings are posted. I wonder why Bridgeport, certainly not an affluent district, finds it cost effective to advertise in the New Haven Register and other daily and weekly publications?

What positions, in fact, are actually open? If the answer is "none," then why did the district need to have retired administrators working by the day? What tasks were they doing that the regularly employed staff couldn't do? And if the regularly hired staff isn't competent to do these tasks, why were they hired for the positions they are in?

For the record, I did work for one year as a part-time teacher after I retired. I taught networking and HTML classes; classes that otherwise would have gone without a teacher at all. Combining that salary with my pension still did not equal my last pre-retirement year's teaching salary. But I have to wonder just how hard Hamden has bothered looking for actual replacement people rather than simply running their buddies back through the system so they can earn double salaries.

Mari Bonomi

It's Trauma No Matter What It's Called

The Veterans Administration is faced with a flood of disability claims from veterans who are claiming injury because of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

PTSD, formerly called "combat fatigue," was first widely noted in the late 19th century, after the American Civil War. That war was one of the first to expose large numbers of warriors to extended periods of combat stress.

PTSD symptoms, as reported in the press over 150 years ago, have not changed. At the time, affected veterans were diagnosed as suffering from "irritable heart." Symptoms included fatigue, shortness of breath, palpitations, headache, excessive sweating, dizziness, disturbed sleep and flashbacks to traumatic combat situations they experienced. In World War I, the condition was called "shell shock," and the symptoms were the same, although there was more attention paid to veterans who jumped and got very nervous when they heard loud noises.

During World War II and Korea, the condition was called "Combat Stress Reaction." The term "post-traumatic stress syndrome" was coined for the Vietnam War vets, later changed to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Actually, if you read through military history over the last few thousand years, you will note that PTSD has always existed. Too much combat "leaves a mark on a man," as the ancient historians wrote.

Medical research is getting close to being able to diagnose PTSD with a great deal of certainty. You don't want people with you in combat who are more prone to becoming quickly traumatized. In combat, someone having PTSD can be dangerous for those around him/her.

The massive publicity PTSD has received and society's greater willingness to accept PTSD as a medical condition have brought a big increase in the number of veterans claiming disability because of PTSD. It appears any veteran can claim PTSD. So far, over 23 percent of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have put in such claims, and the Veterans Administration can see a flood of applications in the coming years.

How well the Veterans Administration handles this will also be a major political issue, as the proper care of veterans is a major concern for Congress in this upcoming election year. I hope Congress will give the Veterans Administration the money that is needed to treat these veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan that have come down with PTSD. I also hope that the Veterans Administration does not revert to its practice of denying 65 percent who apply, as they did in the 1970s and '80s.

Thomas Alegi
Benham Street

December 4, 2005

Already Seen

Regarding "Stop Feeding Goliath," your article about the showing of the Wal-Mart documentary on Dec.1 at the Miller Library, you attributed the poor turnout to apathy, lack of effort and "fear of learning the truth." The one reason you didn't mention, however, which is undoubtedly more to the point, is that many Hamdenites have already seen the documentary.

The Dec. 1 showing came nearly three weeks after the mid-November "premiere" week of showings across the country. Lots of us did make the effort to see the movie then, at showings on the Yale campus, at the Unitarian Society of New Haven (in Hamden) and a variety of other places.

I recommend the documentary to those who haven't yet seen it -- for whatever reason. It's powerful and disturbing, but important to see.

Anne Sommer

December 2, 2005

Five Criteria for Going to War

Re: Thomas Alegi's criteria for war:

1) Let's limit our wars to those actually posing a real and increasing threat to our safety and freedom. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

2) Let's limit our retribution for 9/11 -- if we insist on fighting someone -- to countries actually responsible for giving cover to Bin Laden (Afghanistan, not Iraq), or supplying most of the terrorists involved (Saudi Arabia, not Iraq).

3) Let's be honest with the American people about why we are going to war. Nobody, including Congress, agreed to go to war to "bring freedom to the Iraqi people." We are now working on the administration's third or fourth excuse for this mess.

4) Let's agree to go to war when there is a draft, so that we don't send other citizens off to fight in a war that we aren't personally willing to actually go fight in. A more honest discussion of whether we want to engage in a war will be held when the people making the decisions (that means you, Mr. Bush) are willing to risk themselves or their own loved ones.

5) Let's fight wars when there is an actual enemy that can eventually be beaten. Terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy state. The notion that our "war on terrorism" will be any more effective than our past "wars" on poverty or drugs is misguided. Our presence in Iraq is no longer even welcomed by the Iraqis themselves; the longer we stay there, the more terrorists we are helping Bin Laden recruit.

John Shanley


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