BART’s efficiency deserves recognition 

? “BART workers’ absences cost agency millions,” Local News, Feb. 16

BART’s efficiency deserves recognition

Buried deep in The San Francisco Examiner’s article about sick leave, family leave, jury duty and other “unscheduled absences” by BART train operators and station agents is the statement that BART management “noted that the unscheduled absentee rates of station agents and train operators are comparable to levels at other major transit agencies.”  

In fact, every organization, public or private, has to figure the cost of sickness, injury, ailments and emergencies into their budgets. BART workers cover shifts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A lot can happen covering these 24-hour work days.

As BART management itself points out, BART workers are as reliable as workers at other transit agencies. What isn’t comparable is BART’s better-than-95 percent on-time record. That easily could have been the article presented.

BART gets more out of its workers than other transit agencies, not less.

Antonette C. Bryant
President, Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1555

? “Polk Street merchants angry about plan to remove parking spaces,” Local News, Thursday

Polk doesn’t need parking

I’m in full support of the Polk Street corridor improvements scheduled for a few weeks this summer to coincide with the America’s Cup. It’s an appropriate streetscape revision considering that this is a “transit-first” city.

An automobile isn’t necessary to get home with the typical products sold by businesses along Polk Street. Last time I checked, I didn’t see an Ikea or a Costco there. Drivers will still be able to travel north and south unhindered.

As a walker, jogger and bicyclist, I welcome the traffic-calming effects of bike lanes and parklets, even if just for a few weeks.

Sean Carney
San Francisco

? “San Francisco schools to retool the way they address special education students,” Local News, Jan. 24

Rethink special education

San Francisco Board of Education President Rachel Norton’s statement that even students with profound challenges have the right to learn with their nondisabled peers makes me wonder how many years she spent as a classroom teacher before becoming a policymaker.

Profoundly disabled youngsters need special consideration: logistic, emotional and scholastic.

Unrealistic expectations for them are as damaging to public education as irrational expectations are to the classroom teacher charged with overcrowding, behavior modification and intellectual stasis unrelated to physical or mental handicaps.

In 2000, when I retired from the San Francisco Unified School District after 30 years of teaching, the phrase “No Child Left Behind” had recently been coined. It angered me deeply for its insouciance. Any inner-city teacher would long for such sweet perfection.

Mainstreaming of a limited number of special-education students has always been accomplished, but the blithe idea that the SFUSD must end physical and social segregation of special groups because students with disabilities are general-education students, and teachers need to take responsibility for their entire classrooms, is the sort of policy cant that belies reality and demoralizes those who deal with real-world challenges in real-world classrooms.

Perhaps Norton has come to the school board from years of teaching in an inner city. Perhaps she is a miracle worker. I can only hope so, as I recognize the miracles some rare teachers perform.

But how can the SFUSD recruit its future educators if its policies articulate the phrase “only miracle workers need apply”?

Jane Q. Kennedy
San Francisco

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