Rich or poor, success in school relies on one thing Regarding "Who says poor children can't learn?" (June 8): Kudos to those schools that are showing us how it should be done, and that it can be done. If Heritage Foundation and Education Trust look carefully, they will probably find that what makes a school stand out is that the people running it are interested in their students, staff, and parents. Too often, schools are budget-, program-, or paperwork-driven.

True, most teachers are deeply interested and concerned for their students' welfare. But an atmosphere that discourages trying new methods, gives little or no support in maintaining discipline, and generally leaves teachers feeling no one cares makes it difficult for even the best teachers.

Schools that thrive have administrators that set a tone of caring and support, of success, hard work, and, most importantly, putting people first. These administrators really know their students, provide individual help and counseling, and truly love being with young people. They know that programs and faceless rules do almost nothing for students - that face-to-face contact with students, true concern for them, and helping them learn to do what it right is important. They also know that lowering standards and letting students get away with shoddy work or poor behavior because they've had bad breaks simply sets the child up for continued poor work, poor behavior, and, ultimately, fewer options as an adult.

Karen Rippberger, Los Gatos, Calif.

US Navy and Puerto Rican island Regarding your June 11 editorial on the US Navy using Vieques Island for bombing practice ("The Navy should ship out"): The Vieques range is federal property. The US fought and won all of Puerto Rico from Spain in 1898. If our Navy requires it for a bombing range, then they have every right to use the land in that manner.

As for the tragic death of the Puerto Rican guard during a recent live-fire exercise, your editorial neglected to mention that the guard was outside the protection of the Operations Post because he was responding to the frequent trespassers who ignore warning signs and climb over concertina wire to scavenge and steal from the Navy compound there.

This accident is being used to divide the local populace for the political advantage of the Independence Party. Puerto Rico has thrived under US management. Should US support be withdrawn, Puerto Rico would degenerate to the level of Haiti within a decade with its current reckless local government.

J. Tyler Ballance, Hampton, Va.

Big mergers benefit few The Business & Finance section of your News in Brief page (June 7) reports that Allied Signal is buying Honeywell, resulting in the loss of 4,500 jobs. Zions Bancorp is buying its longtime competitor with a loss of up to 2,000 jobs. This merely confirms my suspicion that many corporate executives have little social conscience.

When I was a management trainee at a local bank, our CEO explained that he had three responsibilities as an executive. They were to serve his customers, employees, and stockholders. In today's climate, customers and employees are the losers as corporations ingest one another at an alarming rate.

The real winners in a merger are the chief executives who are motivated by stock options and excessive salaries and pensions. Sure, stockholders may see their shares increase in value but this may be transitory. Corporate dividends continue to be incongruously low in relation to the risk involved in owning an individual stock.

Samuel C. Haver, Burbank, Calif.

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