Senator Webb and Japanese Prisons

Senator Webb of my Commonwealth of Virginia wants to reform the prison system and charge ahead with projects that he has decided are worthy of his time regardless of whether they represent the priorities of the state he represents? I believe we Virginians elected the wrong person for the job. Foreclosures, the overall financial crisis, rising unemployment, impending auto industry collapse, stock market, bank takeovers, two wars, immigration, etc. and he feels we can learn something from the Japanese prison system because it is fair? Please.

This position that is clearly far down on the needs of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the article plays up his “tough guy” image. I would like to see where he gets his information from where we lock up the wrong people in many cases and not lock up others in many cases. Sometimes mistakes do happen but I do not believe law enforcement “targets” anyone except for those who commit crimes and I support our law enforcement officers 100% in doing so. It is never disputed that the overwhelming percentage of those felons in prison did not commit the crimes only that we have too many in prison. The Washington Post also creates a clear example of a lack of relevant comparative analysis where they state the USA has only 5 percent of the world’s population and 20 percent of the prison population and a “disproportionate” number of incarcerated categories.

While the percentages are true, you cannot compare our country with multiple other countries’ authoritarian or dictatorial regimes where lawlessness runs rampant. Senator Webb should take a look at the Amnesty International Web site and go down their extensive list of 150 countries they monitor. Does he really think that in such places as Darfur, Somalia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, et al that there would not be massive imprisonments of those who commit criminal human and civil rights violations and abuses if those countries actually were a democracy controlled by laws? There could not be enough prisons in those countries or anywhere else to house the uncontrolled criminality that exists on a daily basis.

The issue is not prison reform but educational reform. If a person cannot graduate high school and is illiterate then even if they are in a Japanese style prison and get their head shaved, live in unheated cells, make paper bags, develop frostbite, and be prohibited from writing, etc., the objective to turn this person into a productive citizen would be like placing magnets on a compass. Senator Webb thinks he can guide us back? To where? For me, I feel a lot safer when criminals are prosecuted and placed behind bars; it was their choice and no one forced them to commit a crime.

Let’s try to establish elements of rehabilitation enhancing the programs already in place within the prison system not change our justice system. Senator Webb should remember always that he represents the Commonwealth on issues that are our priorities and not go off in a tangent for those that are solely his. Senator Webb: Fight for our interests and issues not your personal crusades. We elected you – you did not elect us.

Students and Teachers in Pittsburgh Schools Receive Year End Honors and Awards

Six Pittsburgh Schools’ Teachers Honored for Excellence

Each year teachers across the state of Pennsylvania have the chance to win educational grants. Only teachers of excellence are considered then the best are chosen to receive the grants. The two thousand five hundred dollar grants are awarded by the Teacher Excellence Center. This year’s grant recipients include six Pittsburgh Schools’ teachers: Jennifer Ernsthausen, a third-grade teacher at Burgwin Elementary School in Glen Hazel; Karen M. Lewis, a first-grade teacher at Allard Elementary in the Moon Area School District; Sandra McWilliams, a second-grade teacher at Pleasant Valley Elementary School in Peters; Ron Sakolsky, a seventh-grade history teacher at A.E. Oblock Junior High School in Plum; George Savarese, a 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade history teacher at Mt. Lebanon High School; and Jeffrey Schilling, a seventh-grade English teacher at Independence Middle School in Bethel Park.

These teachers were not just chosen at random but had to submit essays and were judged in a variety of categories by peers, parents and students. The final decisions were made by a panel of top educators who had to choose from more than three thousand nominees and then interviewing over one hundred finalist. In addition to the $2,500 grant, each teacher was awarded a field trip for their classes to the Carnegie Science Center, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium or the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center.

Ten Pittsburgh Schools’ Teachers Gain National Certification

In the teaching profession the highest teaching certification that a teacher can hold is that of National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification. This is a much more rigorous process than that of state certification. Ten Pittsburgh School teachers have succeeded in gaining National Board Certification at the end of this school year. Many teachers and administrators consider this to be the profession’s top honor. In the purely volunteer process set by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Board Certification is achieved by participating in performance-based assessment that often takes up to three years to complete and examines the teacher’s or school counselor’s knowledge and accomplishments. The current number of National Board Certified teachers in the Pittsburgh Schools has risen to twenty-five.

Pittsburgh Women’s Service Club Announces Scholarships

The Zonta Club of Pittsburgh, a professional women’s
service organization, in cooperation with Pittsburgh Schools will award thirteen female students with scholarships. The Zonta Club is a group that aims to promote and unite successful women in fields such as business, academia, healthcare, government, social services and the arts through a commitment to service. The Pittsburgh chapter was chartered in 1934. Zonta International was founded in 1919 and now has over 35,000 members in seventy countries. The Pittsburgh area Zonta Club with the Pittsburgh Schools awarded three seniors and ten juniors with Amelia Earhart Awards and Scholarships. The ten juniors received Amelia Earhart Awards for exhibiting the ideals of Zonta by persevering to become contributing members of their schools and communities. Three seniors pursuing postsecondary education will receive two Amelia Earhart Scholarships and one Duquesne Light Amelia Earhart Scholarship of $2,500 each.

Las Vegas Academy’s Series of Short Plays Showcases Student Talent in Las Vegas Schools

Las Vegas Academy, one of the magnet schools of the Las Vegas Public School District, has prepared a series of student produced and student led theater performances.

The Five Plays

o You Want Freedom Fries With That?

“An original theater piece about being an American teenager in an increasingly small world, written and conceived by the Roncalli Drama Festival Ensemble, performed at the Roncalli Drama Festival in Poggibonsi, Siena, Italy, in the heart of Tuscany.”

o Mixed Babies

“Five teenage girls of color discuss life, love, relationships, and friendship in this compelling short play.”

o Coffee Con Carnage

“An original sketch conceived and performed by the students of the Mime and Improvisation Class.”

o Sorry, Wrong Number

“A classic one act thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.”

o The Intermission

“A playwright listens clandestinely to the reactions of the intermission crowd at the premiere of his new play: a surprisingly insightful look at how we perceive what others think about our art.”

History of the Las Vegas Academy

Established in 1992 by the Las Vegas Public School District and area universities, the Las Vegas Academy is committed to fostering student skills in the arts and communication. This magnet school includes students from all over Clark County at its campus in an historic urban shopping district.

Las Vegas Schools students pursue a major in one of the following fields: dance, vocal music, instrumental music, international studies, piano, theater, theater technology, and visual arts. The school operates longer than other schools in the area in order to pack in all the subjects that students need to study in this arts intensive program. Classes are organized on a block schedule, in which students take regular academic classes every other day and major classes every day.

This aggressive approach to education has earned the Las Vegas Academy many honors, both state and nationwide. Including awards from the White House, Senators Reid, Bryan, and Ensign, former Governor Miler and former Las Vegas mayor Jones, the Academy has also garnered attention from the International Network of Performing and Visual Arts schools and been labeled a STAR school. In addition to winning three Grammy Signature School awards, the Academy has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as both a New American High School and a U.S. Blue Ribbon School.

The Student Experience at Las Vegas Academy

Students of the Las Vegas Academy compete through a tough screening process just to attend, including an audition as well as maintaining a high grade point average in their regular academic subjects. While students at other area high schools attend class for 50 minutes a day, students at Las Vegas Academy go for 86 minutes. The school day also goes one hour longer overall. This hard work pays off with over sixty percent of graduates enrolling in four year universities. The series of short plays to be produced by the theater and theater technology departments will be just one of many ways in which Las Vegas Academy students present their hard work and dedication to the local community.