July 10 Mail: Libraries, Gifted Students and DOMA

‘Get Our Priorities in Order’

The Editor’s Note of June 19 solemnly warned of the plight of six branch libraries. “Our complacency will result in library vacancies — and big holes in our neighborhoods,” she wrote.

One must ask, “Where’s our city’s brain power?” and “Where’s the moral conscience of our elected leaders?” Several branch libraries are now targeted to be closed. I’m all for the Jaguars and upgrading the stadium, but can’t just a few of those greenbacks keep our libraries afloat? Let’s get our priorities in order!

Historically, a self-indulgent society always ends in self-destruction. Therefore, we must rescue our city libraries before it’s too late! Think ahead! Educate yourself! Send an urgent knee-mail to Heaven! “How much better it is to get wisdom than gold!” (Proverbs 16:16)

To surrender libraries is to surrender freedom.

William Shuttleworth



‘Every Child Is Gifted’

In the June 19 Folio Weekly, a paragraph from “Vitti’s First-Year Budget Woes” hit home to me. It read “A plan to make changes in the school’s gifted education program was scrapped due to pushback from parents and teachers. Vitti’s plan called for gifted teachers to travel from school to school. The main criticism was that gifted students tend to flourish in a group setting with other gifted students.”

My daughter is 40 years old now. She graduated from college, has had several very responsible positions. She is married to the best guy in the world. They gave me the smartest grandson in the world. Her husband has been blessed with a great job, and my grandson is progressing well in schools. She went through the public school system but was never in the gifted program. I was glad!

Most of her friends were in the program. And neighbors would chide me with how great the gifted program was. Her friends were the honest ones who said the only thing different about the gifted program was that they went on trips. In fact, one trip was to North Carolina.

I never missed one activity throughout her school tenure where parents were invited. It blew my mind when after lunch, the gifted teacher would appear in the doorway like Cleopatra and announce, “Gifted students, line up please.” My daughter’s friends would leave her and line up. I continued to sit with my daughter and reassure her that she was so gifted, too. The gifted teacher’s attitude was, “If I’m teaching gifted students, how great must I be!”

I’m a supporter of programs that challenge capable students. It’s necessary to prevent boredom or laziness when the student could be advancing quicker. I was a teacher, and I worked in the youth detention facilities and at Hope Haven & Child Guidance. What I have found fault with is the word “gifted.” I believe that every child is gifted. Every child in detention or in the developmentally disabled class. You have to search for the gift, because many of these children have been told over and over that they are dumb and worthless. And the school system has reinforced this! I have discovered artists, comedians, writers and so much potential. Every student has a gift — not a select few.

From the moment this program started, I have complained to the superintendents and school boards about the program. The program is great, but name it something else like “Challenge” or the Spanish word “Ultreya,” which means “forward.” I have never received any response from the previous superintendents or school boards. Mind you, my daughter has been out of the school system for many years, but I still feel obligated to do my part to make the system work. And at 76, I have signed up to be a mentor.

I was delighted when Superintendent Nikolai Vitti assured me in private and at different venues that he agreed with me and intended to treat all students as gifted. But at the last venue, he disheartened me when he said parents and teachers of gifted students did not share our views. How sad that they feel that their children and their students need to be referred to as “gifted,” implying that all the rest of the students in the system are not gifted.

Guess what? My daughter is gifted in so many ways and she was never in the gifted program, and I’m so glad. And I hate to remind teachers and parents of “gifted students” that some of her friends who graduated from the gifted program floundered about after graduating before settling down as responsible adults. My daughter moved very smoothly and steadily through college, landed wonderful and challenging positions after graduating with a B.S. degree, met the greatest guy in the world who has a demanding position in a large company, and they provided me with the smartest grandson in the world.

Once again, I’m glad she was not in the gifted program. But if the program had been called “Challenge,” I would have said “right on.”

Bill Dunford



Response to the Supreme Court DOMA Decision

We are disappointed with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Marriage is a natural institution that pre-dates government and is not a creation of government open to redefinition. While the respect for the principles of federalism is appreciated, natural law is not subject to a majority vote. It is regrettable that the Court did not take the opportunity to uphold the reality of marriage bestowed upon us from the beginning by the Creator.

Marriage is the only institution that brings a man and a woman together for life. It gives children the best chance of being raised by their own father and mother together. Not every married couple has children, but every child has a mom and a dad.

As we celebrate the birth of our great nation, let us reflect on the premise predicated by our forefathers, that what God has given us can never be justly denied by any man or government. We have been given life with a purpose and that life begins, by design, with the irreplaceable union of a man and a woman. Fathers and mothers are not interchangeable. All citizens of good will, lift your voices in affirming marriage between one man and one woman for life.

We will continue to support efforts throughout the country and in Florida to protect traditional marriage in state constitutions. o

Most Rev. Felipe J. Estévez

Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine