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June 19, 2011
Salem News

Mayor responds to letter to ed regarding building

To the editor: I read the recent "letter to the editor" (by Debra Barker) with concerns about the building that Betty and I own on the Southeast corner of East State Street and South Ellsworth Avenue.

As most everyone in Salem must know by now, our building was damaged last year when a semi-truck hit and loosened the steel posts on the curb that protect the brick sidewalk on the corner. By loosening the brick sidewalk area, the building suffered damage to the second floor front of the building.

After waiting a period of time to hear from the insurance company insuring the truck that did the damage, our insurance company decided to step forward and assume the responsibility of repairing the building. The insurance company that insured the truck still refuses to take responsibility for the damage, although they did pay for the damage to city property on the sidewalk.

A little history of the building is now in order. The building was erected in 1864 during the Civil War by James Brown, the fifth postmaster of the city of Salem. It was originally a three-story building, with the third floor being removed around 1955. It was the location of Brown's Grocery Store, one of the first, if not the first, grocery stores in Salem. Through the years, the building has been the home to a harness shop, a tire store, a Christ Mission second-hand store, a drug store and seed store and currently, BJ's Family Hair Care Center, and Jerry's Barber Shop in the back of the building. The building is listed on the registry of historic buildings in Ohio and is recognized as the "Gateway" building to Salem from the West by those in Salem interested in the historic character of Salem. It is very important to me and others in Salem that the building remain a Salem landmark. Although Betty and I have owned the building since 1971, my personal ties to the building go back to 1956 when I worked as a high school clerk in Floding's Drug Store, which occupied the building from 1955 until 1971. I have many fond memories of working in the drug store and the seed and plant store which occupied the back part of the building.

When I found out the building was damaged, I immediately contacted Salem Fire Chief Jeff Hughes about the damage. He and I went into the damaged area of the second floor and decided to put up barricades on the sidewalk and street area as a safety precaution. The chief and city fire inspectors have been kept informed about the repair status of the building from the beginning and have shown me anymore or less consideration on this matter than they would anyone else, nor have I asked for any favors or consideration. Throughout this situation, the safety of the citizens of Salem has been my prime concern from the beginning. Two different State of Ohio certified structural engineers have checked and written reports on the building and have recommended structural remedial work on the building which has been done to secure it from falling and to make it safe during the reconstruction process. So, we have taken the necessary precautions to safe guard the public. I am very particular about this matter because 40 years ago, I survived a building collapse across the street in my former barber shop where H&R Block is now located. Believe me, I am quite aware of the danger of buildings falling and have taken the necessary safety precautions with both exterior and interior structural reinforcements.

Because of major delays in EPA mandates concerning removal of old paint containing lead from the front brick being replaced, the project was set back a few months due to the removal of the paint and then the brick. Along with a very bad winter and a very wet spring, further delays happened.

But the project is once again progressing. The company doing the restoration has told me that they will be removing the scaffolding from the sidewalk area in time for the Quaker City Weekend Cruise and replacing it afterward to complete the project. This is wonderful news to both me and my wife, Betty, as she has been out of business in the front part of the building for close to a year! We both will be happy to see an end to this situation soon. I have gone into personal details of the issue to let people know the facts rather than relying on rumor, gossip, and untrue statements. No one wants the building back to its original condition and use more than Betty and I. For those who know me, no more explanations are needed. For those who wish to continue to believe otherwise than what has just been said, no other words I say will change their minds or their rhetoric. I hope that this letter has answered everyone's "wonderings" and concerns. If there are others who wish to discuss the issue, my phone number is in the phone book, or you can reach me during the day at city hall. I will be glad to answer your questions as I do others on a daily basis. In fact, the phone call will even save you time writing a lengthy "letter to the editor" and the cost of a stamp to mail it!


Skiba family expresses thanks for benefit help

To the editor: The Skiba family would like to send out a very special thank you to each and everyone of you. We cannot express how grateful we are for the support we had for the Rocky Skiba benefit.

Thank you for your donated time, baskets, money, gift cards, any donations made and to all the people who came. We are so thankful that we live in such a great community with very good-hearted people. And we want to thank all the others who have donated or put other benefits on for our family.

Thank you all so very much. Your generosity and kindness will not be forgotten.


Reader feels headline written in bad taste

To the editor: Regarding the headline on the Salem News sports page June 8, 2011, referring to Terrelle Pryor, "Good riddance." This headline in my opinion was written in very poor taste. Save the editorializing for the editorial page!


Performance-based pay would be problematic

To the editor: Performance-based pay sounds like such a wonderful idea. Pay teachers based on how their students perform. Inherently, in theory, teachers would work harder and students would learn more. Also, this would give us a great way to hold teachers accountable. Unfortunately, as with many educational reform ideas that sound so good, in practice, they become extremely problematic.

Educational theorists have been studying this idea in public education for a long time. I won't bore you with an academic discussion on this debate. Let me explain it in terms that make more sense. Can I hold my family doctor accountable for my own health? Can I pay my doctor based on how healthy I am? This sounds silly, doesn't it? Think about this: If I decide to eat a high fat diet with no exercise, a lot of beer, and a variety of delightful desserts, do you think it is my doctor's fault if I suddenly have health issues? Is it my doctor's fault that I choose not to follow her advice? If my doctor says "Stop this behavior David or you are going to die!" is my rating of her as a low quality doctor a legitimate response?

Do I now have the right as a patient to pay her less? I'm sure by now you see my point.

Student academic success is not the sole responsibility of the public school teacher. If a student comes to school without doing her/his homework, how can I expect academic improvement? If a student comes to school without sleep, without eating, or from listening to guardians argue/ party/rage all night, how can we hold the teacher accountable for the student's success? If the kid doesn't come to school at all, how can this be the teacher's fault? Current proposals in House Bill 153 want to pay teachers based on student performance. Additionally, this bill also proposes that student performance become one of the essential elements in the employment decisions in our schools. In a perfect world, this is a great idea. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. I'm not nave. I realize, as with any profession, there are some teachers who are not performing at the highest level. However, using student test scores and student rankings of teachers as the means to identify quality teaching is too simplistic to achieve reliable results. Test scores could be one measure. Administrative review, done several times throughout the academic year, can also provide important data. Peer review, from experienced lead teachers, is also another quality data point. Feedback from employers, universities, and colleges on the performance of recent graduates can also provide useful information. Trained parent groups as well as teacher educators could also provide insightful perceptions of teacher quality. Using all of these data points together we may be able to identify the quality of the teachers within each district. As you can imagine, this form of meaningful assessment would require a huge commitment of financial and human resources to make this a reality. Are we really willing to make this a priority in our schools? The current structure of HB 153 is not. Recent versions of the bill propose a $50 bonus to the teacher when her/his students do well on a standardized test. Is that really going to help us identify the best teachers? Identifying quality teaching takes a larger community commitment than just throwing money at the problem.

If you really believe that $50 bonuses are the key, then how about this model: Every time a kid comes to school without doing homework, fine the parents $50 and give the money to the teacher.

Or, when a kid comes to school without having breakfast, fine the community $50 bucks and give the money to the teacher. Or how about when a family takes a vacation during the school year, fine the family $50 per kid for each missed day in classgive that money to the teacher. I am being facetious to make a point. Educating children is a complicated task and until we accept this idea as a nation, we will continue to try fad after fad that sounds really good, provides political fodder that gains national attention, yet fails to really improve the education of our democratic citizenry.

Please, don't get caught up in simple-minded solutions. As my wise grandmother always taught me, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is..she also made me do my homework every day after school.

David M. Dees, Ph.D. Associate Professor, School of Foundations, Leadership and

Administration, Kent State University Salem Campus



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