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Board should reinstate Rao as music director

I am a music educator, and have been a singer in the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus for more than 30 years. In my years of training and singing, I have never, ever, anywhere, sung with a music conductor like Doreen Rao. She has such experience, vast knowledge and enormous skill to be able to bring this choral group to sing with great accuracy, lovely blended tone and greater musicianship. She has brought this chorus from "pretty good" to excellent in a short three and a half years. She has attracted singers who join us to be able to sing with her. Those of us who are music teachers, choir and chorus directors have found ourselves teaching/directing better, using better techniques and working with more joy and inspiration because of our work with her. She is centered in her love of music, of her singers, and her joy in bringing us all together. She is a nationally known leader in choral arts, and we are so lucky that she has chosen to be here in Buffalo.

The leadership of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra regards her highly and has expressed great appreciation for her bringing the performances of the chorus (with the BPO) to such heights.

The chorus board has terminated Rao's contract -- for absolutely no reason. Is it threatened by her strength? If the board members who voted for that termination cared about the chorus, they would resign and make room for people who appreciate Rao, who will work with her and support her to take their place. I call upon them to do just that.

Virginia Little Paul



Why has Hoskins case been delayed so long?

I am writing to inquire why the case involving Beth Hoskins and the SPCA has yet to be resolved. To refresh the collective memory, this case, which began in March 2010, involves the mistreatment of 73 Morgan horses and no less than 50 cats and dogs. Despite mountains of evidence, which involved photos of mistreated animals and thigh-high piles of manure, we have not even gone to jury selection.

Could the Hoskins family connections be delaying justice, or is Aurora Town Justice Douglas Marky merely incompetent? Either way, justice delayed is justice denied, and we should have answers as we approach the two-year anniversary of this case. Sweeping it under the rug is unacceptable and the media, the SPCA and the District Attorney's Office need to hold Marky's feet to the proverbial fire and end this community embarrassment.

Edward J. Sullivan



State's public schools are doing a good job

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recent budget message challenges school districts to figure out whether they should feel grateful, goaded or misled.

First, the typical school district will not get his proposed 4 percent aid increase. Big strings are attached. Either you have to spend to get it, or you have to pit yourself against other districts to reward what you are already doing well.

Second, the governor plans to flat-line a desperately needed state aid increase unless school districts and unions quickly resolve disputes over a complex evaluation of teachers and principals. Underlying problems include: 1) Threatening to deny funds to children is bad policy; 2) Implementation will chew up gobs of money and time; 3) If teaching is artful, then using standardized student test scores to gauge its effect is like displaying paint-by-numbers work in the Louvre.

Third, Cuomo cites interstate high school graduation rates to suggest we spend more to get less than we should. However, the latest Quality Counts data from Education Week ranks New York third nationally on combined measures. All of the following factors predict our children's chances for success. All are above the national mean or median:

*Half of our children have at least one college-educated parent.

*72 percent have a parent who works full-time year-round.

*58 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool.

*By age 24, 63 percent are earning or have earned postsecondary degrees.

*44 percent of adults ages 25 to 64 have postsecondary degrees.

*Our public high school graduation rate is 71.7 percent.

Need more proof that our public schools nurture all children's success in learning and life? Since 2003, New York has been number one in narrowing the achievement gap between students above and below the poverty line. New York's public schools excel as providers of equal educational opportunity.

Jeffrey Bowen



Parents need to limit time with electronics

I enjoyed reading the Viewpoints article by Maria Steuernagel titled, "Are our children too connected?" I am in total agreement. Nothing gets me more impassioned than the subject of kids overdoing it with electronic gizmos and not spending enough time on reading, writing, actively playing with toys, board games, sports and talking to peers and adults (in full sentences).

I'm sure many of my peers think that I am reactionary, but I feel strongly in my convictions (and don't need a study to tell me) that kids who spend too much time with electronics have shortened attention spans, are bored easily and are boring. It would be a struggle to teach these children. I agree with the writer that this preoccupation is not making our kids any smarter. It is not only that they struggle to sit for long periods of time to enjoy a book, a play or a conversation, but to just sit with only their brain as a distraction. Who knows what an uncluttered mind could compose or what peace it might find, or what solution it could achieve?

Granted, today's technology is entertaining, convenient and offers a ton of knowledge at our fingertips but, conversely, it can suck up a lot of precious time, does not teach the intrinsic value of deferred gratification and offers a ton of junk. Parental teachings should certainly include, and set by example, limiting time spent phoning, texting, gaming and viewing. Modern society leaves for a lot of idle time. What we do to fill that time can make or break us.

Suzanne Pfleger



Reduce NFTA salaries instead of hiking fares

I read the front-page News story "The buck stops here," which pertained to the City of Rochester and how it compared to the City of Buffalo's Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

The NFTA should be ashamed of itself. It needs to cut all administrative salaries by at least 10 percent; send out smaller buses for lighter routes; and lower the fares, not increase them. By raising fares and cutting routes, the NFTA is preventing people from getting to jobs, thereby hindering job growth.

It has been said that one of the signs of a great city is its transportation system. Need I say more?

Donna M. Duszczak