The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 24, 2013

Readers' Forum 4-24 | Raw scores don’t give justice to GJSD

Submitted by Readers

— I read the misleading school rankings done by the Pittsburgh Business Times (April 17). Raw scores are not indicative of a school system’s academic performance, because they list results in only two subject areas; moreover, the raw scores list doesn’t tell the story of true progress.

The listings are nowhere near accurate indications of how well schools perform.

They list the cumulative raw PSSA scores for Grades 3-8 and 11. The raw scores rankings neither show demonstrated progress of a school system, nor the value professionals add to their students’ education.

The Pittsburgh list ranks Greater Johnstown School District near the bottom, and one might interpret the raw score as a poor performer. To the contrary, a high percentage of Johnstown’s students come to kindergarten years behind due to factors mostly related to socio-economic status. This correlates to more than 30 million fewer words heard at home by age 3 than their middle- and high-income counterparts.

After three years of high-quality programs, East Side school ranks 1237/1536 in elementary schools in the state (20 percentile, up from the first percentile of economic standing). When graduating, Greater Johnstown students rank 348/677 in high schools (number proficient on the exams), which is the 49 percentile.

This is the reason Standard and Poor’s listed GJSD as one of 45 “out performing districts” in Pennsylvania, and why U.S. News & World Report calls JHS one of America’s top high schools. Both of those reporting systems are more sophisticated statistical models than simple raw rankings. You want value added? Come to GJSD; you’ll be surprised.

Raymond A. Arcurio

Greater Johnstown School District federal programs coordinator

Alternatives to raising state’s gasoline tax

Gov. Tom Corbett is proposing a 25-cent increase in the gasoline tax to pay for road and bridge repairs.

The infrastructure did not deteriorate over night, but rather long term due to lack of allocating maintenance money by past and present governments.

Several years ago, the townships’ and boroughs’ portion of liquid-fuels money was severely reduced. At this time, the legislators voted to include the proven-corrupt turnpike commission with 19 percent of this money, thus causing many local roads and bridges to go without the necessary repairs.

There are hundreds of millions of dollars available other than by increasing the gas tax on Pennsylvania drivers.

Two funds that have appeared to be untouchable in the past and in the present  come to mind:

First, the legislative budget (I call it the legislators’ cookie jar), with more than $200 million allotted yearly, and second is the judicial budget. We have too many judges, assistant attorneys and public defenders for a state that has lost and is losing large numbers of its population.

The following quotation says it all:

“The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.” Cicero, 55 B.C.

Joseph Sherwood

Twin Rocks

Why protect overseas interests over ours?

Members of Congress often proclaim, “We need to protect our interests overseas.” In light of the cuts to the defense budget that are mandated by sequestration, they should be required to be more explicit.

Since it is difficult to believe that the more than 300 million of us share the same interests, Congress needs to make it clear what all of “our” overseas interests are and who benefits from the protection. (Arguably, those who benefit should pay.)

It is likely that most of us think of the oil in the Middle East as our interests overseas. Without a doubt, oil is important for every American and certainly needs to be protected.

However, what are our interests in countries such as South Korea? It is in the best interests of the South Koreans to protect themselves from an invasion from North Korea, but those are not our interests.

China has been embraced by corporate America, as witnessed by the hundreds of corporations ( including Apple, AT&T and Victoria Secret that manufacture goods there. As a result, the justification that has been given for having a military presence in Korea – “we need to stop the spread of communism” – is no longer valid.

Early indications are that sequestration will negatively impact the domestic defense budget much more than the foreign budget. If that is true, then Congress also needs to explain why it is that “our” interests overseas are more important than our interests here.

Stephen J. Verotsky


Murdered ex-Marine deserves justice

Although some readers who know me might say I’m too close to this case (I am ex-military – Navy – and Michael Pcola was an ex-Marine and I am his second cousin), I believe that the prosecutors made the wrong decision regarding this case. Why?

I know firsthand that Marines are trained to protect people, especially their mothers and all women in general.

Read the April 17 story in The Tribune-Democrat if you doubt my words (“Prosecutors won’t seek death penalty: Defendant accused of killing man with bat”).

Also, Michael’s choice to live or die was taken away from him when Gregory Conzo swung his bat, fatally injuring Michael. Therefore, why should Conzo’s life be spared for killing another person?

I know Michael didn’t fall under the “statutory aggravating circumstances” that the prosecutors have to go by, but Michael Pcola was murdered by Conzo and deserves justice in this case, too.

John Pcola

St. Michael

Bring back values to save next generation                                                       Prayer and the Ten Commandments have been taken out of schools and replaced with an education system that does not teach values. When the Ten Commandments were hanging on the walls of schools, young people learned that thou shall not steal, thou shall not lie and, yes, thou shall not kill.

We must bring back these values to save this generation. On the day of the shootings in Newtown, an estimated 3,000 babies died in America at the hands of abortionists.

A nation that refuses to ensure that a baby is safe in his/her mother’s womb cannot ensure the safety of small children in their schools or anywhere else in society.

Public officials tell us that they are taking action on behalf of the children, while at the same time supporting and funding groups such as Planned Parenthood, which is responsible for the brutal deaths of more children than all school shootings combined. If we accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?

Forty years of legalized abortion has produced something very dark and very diabolical in America’s soul.

President Obama could turn things around in one day if he wanted to by lifting the ban on public praying and getting Bibles back in our schools.

He will not do it, though.

God have mercy on America.

Stephen Porada

Richland Township

Outlawing guns will not stop murders

This is to applaud Thomas Sowell’s column on April 18, “Where’s the proof that tighter gun laws reduce murders?

I couldn’t have said it better myself. And I might add that the NRA isn’t the only organization trying to protect our Bill of Rights. There are thousands of other organizations across this country, including our rod and gun clubs.

Bombs are also illegal, but that doesn’t stop bombings. Madmen will always find a way to commit mass murders. They don’t care about women and children. They don’t even care about their own lives.

I have a sign hanging on a wall that states: “You have not lived until you have almost died. And for those who fight for it, life has a flavor the protected will never know.”

I think every veteran knows its meaning.

Criminals would like nothing better than to have all guns outlawed. It would be safer for them. But if they attack my family, they will be met with equal or greater force than they have.

Thank you, Mr. Sowell, for a great article. Those who say, “If it just saves one life,” must always remember that guns have saved a country.

Ken Buck

Stonycreek Township

Stop downward spiral before it starts

In response to “Speak out to reverse country’s free fall” by Edward C. Denk on April 22: Just think how much better off the country would be if he and the regular Readers’ Forum writers he named would have been as vigilant during the George W. Bush presidency.

I’ve always thought the best way to stop a downward spiral is to not let it start in the first place. But I would like to thank all of you for being so patriotic.

Frank A. Frontino

Northern Cambria

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