Letters to the editor for Sunday, August 21, 2022

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Collier school incumbents well qualified

Much of the annoying daily ads for school board candidates are misleading and downright deceitful.

The schools are already safe, spending is scrutinized and fair, and critical race theory is not being taught.

The Republican Club of Collier County and their endorsed candidates want you to believe the opposite. As registered Republicans, we are disappointed that the Collier County Republican Club has ignored that school board elections are nonpartisan.  Additionally, they have endorsed a candidate with no educational background or teaching experience and former board member, Kelly Lichter. During several past school board meetings, Kelly’s behavior was very contentious resulting in many school board meetings that lasted until well after midnight. Her unprofessional comments set a horrible example for the students sitting in attendance.

We voted for incumbents Jory Westberry, PhD, former Tommie Barfield Elementary principal for almost 20 years; Roy Terry who is a former teacher, coach, athletic director, and principal; as well as Jen Mitchell, current CCPS Board chair who was involved with PTO and the Superintendent Advisory Board.

We have known these people for years. In our opinion, Jory, Jen, and Roy have done an admirable job. They are honest, fair, and possess good common business sense. We need experienced, efficient, level-headed board members who don’t waste their time slinging barbs at other candidates but will continue to work professionally and productively as an experienced and well qualified team.

Dr. Jerry Swiacki and Linda Turner, Marco Island

Protect coastal wetlands from development

Seventy years ago, most of today's canal communities were coastal wetlands. Mangroves were cut down, canals were dredged, fill dirt was brought in, and houses and docks were built.

Since then we have learned a lot about the impact on our water. We have suffered many red tides, blue green algae blooms and massive fish kills, and have learned how important coastal wetlands are to water quality. We now have codes and regulations to protect coastal wetlands from development.

But developers still try.

Eden Oak is such a project. The developer has been working for years to convince the county that turning coastal wetlands into canals, houses and docks is OK. But it is not.

The county staff, local residents and conservation scientists, all find dozens of reasons to stop it. I hope our county leaders will too!

Terry Furhovden, Fort Myers

Vote Donalds out of Congress

After a number of mass killings in the United States by people in possession of automatic weapons, Byron Donalds recently voted against gun controls, which is in line with his campaign pledges. Witness his website. He is more the representative of the NRA than of us who vote. Donalds just does not understand it. He believes that a militia consisting of proud boys should protect American liberties. We don’t need a militia; we have an Army, a Navy, Marines and a Coast Guard. We have the National Guard and we have reservists. The days of militias are over; we have professionals. What Donalds does not comprehend is what our forefathers put into the Declaration of Independence when they declared that we are endowed with three inalienable rights -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Donalds would like to rewrite it to say: guns, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He is not consistent with our founding fathers. Guns are the antithesis of life. Guns only mean death whether it be to animals or humans. We need politicians who protect life, not who promote the interests of those profiting from the deaths of children in our schools, in our malls, in our churches and on our streets while the gun profiteers justify themselves as enhancing an unneeded militia.

Vote Donalds out of Congress. Our grandchildren cannot have liberty and pursue happiness if they are innocently robbed of life by assault weapons in the hands of those with no background checks.

Joe Haack, Naples

Rep. Donalds, there is no Woke Curriculum

As expected, Rep. Byron Donalds continues his assault on public schools. His latest vague and unsubstantiated claims occurred in his Aug. 8 Weekly Wrap-Up. He claims that “…our great governor and I are fighting the injection of woke culture in our school. Classrooms are for learning unbiased history, comprehending non-woke math, and reading books shouldn’t teach our kids about gender identity.”

These are powerful accusations. What evidence does Donalds have to support these claims? What is the woke culture he so vigorously opposes? What is non-woke mathematics? Why shouldn’t schools teach about gender identity? What evidence can Donalds produce that support his claims? I challenge Donalds to identify any book that doesn’t have a point of view.

I can assure Rep. Donalds that there is no Woke Curriculum in our public schools. Rather, there is a curriculum with materials and professional teachers that encourages students to understand and substantiate various points of view as well as their own. I encourage Donalds to have the courage to set up a Town Hall meeting to address his claims about the “Woke Curriculum” and public schools.

Larry Byrnes, Fort Myers

Thrilled to be first-time voter

I just turned 18, and eagerly requested my first mail-in ballot. Participating in this process is truly thrilling. I was born and raised in Collier County and have been educated in our public school system. I am just beginning my senior year. To have my first voting opportunity include selecting school board members is impactful and a vote I do not take lightly.

I researched qualifications of the candidates in Districts 1, 3, and 5, paying particular attention to District 1, which represents my area. I was elated to read that Dr. Jory Westberry, our current School Board vice-chair, is seeking re-election. Her experience and qualifications are impeccable. She holds three degrees in education, culminating with a doctorate in Educational Administration from the University of Miami. Dr. Westberry has dedicated her life to education and 30 years specifically to Collier County. She was a Golden Apple Award winning teacher and was principal of Tommie Barfield Elementary for 14 years. I was a student at Tommie Barfield during her tenure. Our school always had an “A” rating, and she was fantastic.

Dr. Westberry could easily trade in her business attire for beachwear. Instead, she mentors students and new teachers while participating in educational initiatives. In 2018, she was elected to our School Board. During her service, CCPS has maintained excellent ratings, currently ranked in the top five districts statewide. As I cast my first vote, the choice for School Board, District 1 was crystal clear. Good luck Dr. Westberry!

Kathryn Barry, Marco Island

Jory Westberry an exemplary educator

I was an elementary school principal in Connecticut for 25 years. I am writing this letter in support of Dr. Jory Westberry for the District One position on the Collier County School Board. Dr. Westberry’s reputation as an educator is exemplary. She has always been professional, compassionate and hard working. The best interests of children and families have always been her top priority.

Being a principal is profoundly challenging. You serve many masters: children (first and foremost), parents, teachers, the teachers’ union, central office, and the elected board of education. Most days are filled with situational conflict and the principal has to find a way to serve the students' needs while maintaining the support and respect of the community. Not easy.

These are the most challenging times we have ever faced. What kind of person would you like to have making policy decisions? I hope you will choose someone who is highly skilled in this arena. A person who understands the complex needs of children and families. An experienced professional who understands the impact of her decisions on families and teachers and has the courage and wisdom to make the tough calls – because they are in the best interests of children and families. A person who knows what it is like to go home each and every evening and caringly listen to 15 phone messages from concerned citizens.

That person is Jory Westberry. Your community is fortunate to have a person of her caliber on the ballot.

Plato Karafelis, Ph.D., Clinton, WA

Keep politics out of Collier schools

Political attacks on Collier public school teachers are mean and unjustified. They certainly are harmful for the attraction and retention of quality classroom teachers. Collier teachers are dedicated to helping their students.

Please disregard political postcards and emails spewing false accusations about Collier County Public Schools. Hateful political misinformation must be rejected and especially so in nonpartisan elections. Keep politics out of public schools.

Vote for the incumbents Roy Terry, Jen Mitchell and Jory Westberry. They have a proven track record of establishing school policies to solely benefit students and not political or religious agendas.

Richard Woodruff, retired teacher, Naples

Elect Kathy Fanny for Lee schools

During her campaign for School Board District 1, Kathy Fanny has won endorsements from the Teacher Association of Lee County and the Support Personnel Association, to only name a few.

The reason for this endorsements is that Kathy is highly qualified for this important position.

Kathy has worked as an educator for almost 40 years. During her time teaching she has been involved and helped develop literacy programs for struggling students.

We need to vote Kathy to the school board for District 1, not only because she has been a teacher for most of her adult life, but also because she is a is a very compassionate woman, who wants to provide Lee County students with the best possible education to build their future on.

With Kathy on board, we will have a school board member who is well aware of the needs of today’s students, and we can be sure she will put her heart and soul in this position, to help our children not only to reach their education goals. She will also make sure the means for success are provided to our children in a way they will have fun learning.

School Board positions play a very important role in the quality of education our children receive, and Kathy definitely has the experience and compassion to not only guarantee quality education, but to increase the quality, by bringing in literacy programs she either developed herself, or helped develop with great success.

Martina Kilgo, Cape Coral

Signature 'match' concerning

My husband and I have just voted for the primary election in Collier County. Each voting cycle, we experience some anxiety over the signature "match" issue. We support the idea of signing our names, but not the possibility of our votes not being counted because of a subjective comparison of our signatures on the envelope with our signatures on file.

First, the workers -- and we applaud their service -- who compare signatures from the past with current ballots are not experts in this field and consequently are not appropriate decision makers.

Second, ours (and others') signatures have changed over the years. Particularly, at 91 years old, my husband's signature is a little shaky and has lost some of the structure and certainty of past signatures (even from the last election). This in no way affects his mentation, which is excellent.

We strongly believe that the requirement that one's signature must "match" can potentially lead to voter suppression and that the system could be manipulated to favor one party over another.

In short, it is not fair. Requiring a voter ID (which we retain) or license number could be additional sources of identification. In this era of cynicism, it is essential to have faith in the integrity of our voting system. We should be making it as easy as possible to encourage eligible voters to vote.

Patricia Aiken-O’Neill, Naples

Daija Hinojosa for Collier commission

The people of Collier County need Daija Hinojosa in their corner! Ever since I had a “chance” interaction with Daija on social media, I have witnessed a true servant of the people. Daija is all action and genuine, no lip service and empty promises! I know she will not only support her district, but work with all districts of Collier County to do what’s best for the people and communities of Collier County. Daija’s vision of keeping Naples the beautiful, sustainable paradise we are so fortunate to be living in, is not only my vision but the vision of so many in our community. Daija will work diligently and tirelessly to make that vision a reality.

Renee Scaravalle, Naples

Gotta read those 'unsuitable' books

This is a true story. You can read about it in the Daily News.

The Collier County Public Schools have put this label on about a hundred of the books in school libraries: "This book has been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students."

There is nothing to stop students from checking one of these books out. A record of all the books the student has checked out is available online to his or her parents. The record will show if the student has checked out one of these "unsuitable" books.

Let's consider this violation of the student's privacy. If I logged into my child's account and found out that they had actually checked out any book at all, I would be very, very happy. They are actually reading something instead of watching TikTok. The books in question must have some merit, otherwise why did Collier Schools buy them in the first place?

There are some people who are concerned that these labels will discourage students from reading these books. I guess these people were never 12 years old. I know that the next time I was in the library I would go looking for one these book just to see what all the to do is about. I might also be curious about what all those letters like "B" and "Q" are about or why "gender identity" is an issue with the NCAA.

Harlan Boise, Naples

Moshier not qualified for school board

I have been following the coverage of the Collier candidate for school board Timothy Moshier. His failure to quickly and strongly denounce the antisemitic behavior of Katie Richards is disgusting and deplorable.

In addition to his immediate inability to denounce her and expunge her from his campaign is the fact that Moshier is grossly unqualified to to sit on a Board of Education. Research into his background shows NO training, experience or education that would qualify him to hold a seat on the board.

I predict that he will serve as a disrupter not a person truly committed to quality education for the students in Collier County.

Karen Schechter, Naples

Warped doctrine will harm schools

Gov. DeSantis is determined to mold young learners to his warped doctrine without a chance for them to make their own decisions. He criticizes teachers, backs candidates with no credentials because they share his philosophy, and publicly admonishes teenagers for safeguarding their health.

What do we get in return? School board candidates who goose step their way to victory, who don't have children in public schools and who will come to the board with a singular agenda.

What does that cause? A flight of teachers from the profession or to another state.

The future of the next generation is dim if we don't have qualified leaders, school board members and teachers to give students a chance to learn by not just seeing propaganda but by having the tools to separate that from fact.

I remember my teachers fondly because they encouraged me to find my way, not theirs. Will the memories of the next generation be so kind?

Jason Sage, Naples

Warren deserved his suspension

The Sunday article by guest columnist John Torres, “Punished for thoughts, not actions” outlined his perspective on the suspension of State Attorney Andrew Warren by Gov. DeSantis. There are too many people like Andrew Warren in office who pick and choose the laws they would prefer to enforce.

The author believes that if you have not “acted” your job ought to be safe. If a prosecutor decides which laws he or she will enforce or not enforce they have chosen a path outside of the law. Prosecutors are elected to enforce the law. You think the governor should have waited until Mr. Warren acted? Why?  We have seen the results of prosecutorial discretion. Look at what it has done in places like New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Minneapolis just to name a few cities where woke prosecutors have chosen to put the law aside. Mr. Warren voiced his thoughts to the law and he was rightfully suspended.

I guess that a prosecutor could look at the current administration in Washington, D.C., and say it decides to selectively enforce the law and say why can’t I.  Look at non enforcement of the laws on our southern border and what are the results? There are other examples and you can look them up.

Andrew Warren felt safe in expressing his opinion on certain laws he was elected to enforce but Gov. DeSantis was ahead of the curve on this one. This state should not accept rogue prosecutors who decide which laws are valid and which are not.

Nick Blauwiekel, Naples

Fanning flames with heated rhetoric

The reactions of Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio to the FBI search warrant at Mar-a-Lago is beyond disappointing and disgusting; it is dangerous. All three know the thorough process the Justice Department had to go through to obtain such a warrant. Justice had to prove to a federal judge probable cause that crimes had been committed and that lesser means were not adequate to achieve upholding the law. The judge had to write instructions for what could and what could not be searched to protect Trump’s Fourth Amendment rights. DeSantis, Scott and Rubio know this -- all three chose to dive into the gutter and spout absurdities about weaponizing Justice and banana republics.

If our three top elected officials had functioning moral compasses, they would have used their pulpits to reassure citizens of the integrity of our institutions and legal processes. They would have urged calm and to let the facts come out. They chose instead to fan the flames with heated rhetoric without any factual basis to do so. The events of Jan. 6 should have taught them that heated political rhetoric can provoke violence. They either did not learn, or chose to ignore that lesson.

DeSantis, Scott and Rubio have shown that they do not deserve the public trust inherent in their offices. We have the opportunity to remove two of them in November. Let’s do our job as citizens.

Bruce Armstrong, Naples

Think before you vote

Several weeks ago the NDN was kind enough to publish my letter in connection to the upcoming midterms and I posed the question to the liberal readers of this newspaper -- name one thing that President Biden and the rest of the socialists in Washington have done for the benefit of American citizens, for the improvement of our lives, and not one person responded and that is because the people running this country have done nothing to improve our lives. So why would any of you vote for any Democrat next November? Unless of course you like $4 gas, outrageous food prices in supermarkets, a shortage of inventory in almost every business, good luck finding parts for your air conditioner, a dreadful war in Ukraine, now almost totally reliant on foreign oil, the Iranians getting closer every day to having a nuclear weapon. I could go on and on.

The election is not a popularity contest. Just because you don’t happen to like the best governor this state has ever had -- DeSantis -- doesn’t mean you should switch to the socialists  and vote for Crist. You’d be crazy to vote that way. Think before you vote.

Michael R. Adler, Miromar Lakes

Nikki Fried still has my vote

Regarding the hatchet job article out of Palm Beach The News-Press ran front page above the fold on Nikki Fried and big sugar cane burning. The story made it appear that we are to believe Palm Beach County or big sugar give a damn about Glades County, when it was clear the concern was only to attempt poorly to damage the reputation of DeSantis' opponent for governor. Nikki  still has my vote and many others. The villains here are the rich Republicans in Palm Beach County who scream Nikki caused COVID issues when we clearly know who is to blame for COVID in Florida (Trump,DeSantis, et al). I am a stroke survivor with lung issues but god forbid any regulatory rules be enacted or enforced on big industry. If sugar truly can be harvested mechanically as the story states, I call on big sugar to invest in the equipment and earn your tax breaks. Big sugar it’s time to put up and prove you care about your Glades County neighbors. Waiting for Nikki to be elected before anything changes.

John Collins, Cape Coral

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Letters to the editor for Sunday, August 21, 2022