Letters: Bromwell Elementary's principal gets a flunking grade from critics

"Teacher's Fret," Melanie Asmar, June 10

Making the Grade

You know who is almost guaranteed not to be an effective teacher (in the sense of raising test scores and improving student achievement)? A long-term substitute teacher brought in midway through the school year. It's not the fault of the substitute; they haven't had a chance to build rapport with the students, get used to the way a school does things, or even familiarize themselves with the curriculum. Whether or not Miss P was an amazing teacher, she was better than what the students got instead.

Cameron Hays


It's nice that Ms. Pishney worked so hard to have her first-grade students memorize poems every year and put on plays. Makes me wonder how much more her students could have achieved if she had put that much effort into their other subjects, such as phonetics and number concepts.

Alice Dall


My mother quit teaching after thirty years because of exactly the same kind of situation. Whether they explicitly state it or don't even mentally acknowledge it, administrators feel pressure to save money — and forcing out older teachers, no matter how good they are, is often a hidden motivation in the evaluation of an overly ambitious or aggressive administrator, who is often many years less senior than the teacher.

There is no easy answer, but tenure is not a bad thing. Even with tenure, though, administrators can find ways to make life so miserable for a teacher that the teacher is forced to leave in order to maintain any kind of positive lifestyle. In this instance, the additional pressure on the administrator is that she may feel pressure to have a certain bell-curve distribution of negative to positive evaluations, so someone had to draw the short straw.

All in the name of a "race to the top."

Ben Tonak

Laramie, Wyoming

"They're pretty successful, which means they're pretty smart," says an anonymous parent of a Bromwell student, referring to the economic bracket most Bromwell parents are a part of. There is no evidence that wealth is related in any way to intelligence. Making such a statement opens the door to assuming that the complex and overwhelming problems of the poor are due to their stupidity. These beliefs hark back to the racism and classism of nineteenth-century eugenics. This parent, who identifies with the wealthy of Bromwell, herself demonstrates that a person can be both rich and seriously stupid.

If there are parents like these guiding Bromwell, then the school is only widening the achievement gap in Denver. If the school board continues to rally behind high-achieving schools in wealthy districts, such as Bromwell, then Denver's underserved will continue to be so.

Parents are justified in wanting their child to have the best possible education no matter what their income bracket. However, attitudes like that of this Bromwell parent are, frankly, disgusting.

Molly Zackary


I picked up Westword to read Melanie Asmar's Miss P article, and I wasn't disappointed! Shame on parents who treat their childrens' education as a consumer product. I watched a documentary on preschools in New York City; this situation is very similar. Parents become animals! Principal Cohn seems to be bending under the pressure of these animal parents.

I'm not a dreadlock-wearing, Birkenstock hippie; I live in a suburb and drive an SUV, just like any number of moms in the park on a sunny day. But as I have looked into what is the best education for my daughter, I've decided to homeschool her. I grew up in schools with horrible principals, ones "on fire" to "make a difference" with us — aka fit us into their mold, whether we liked it or not. I learned nothing. My husband is okay with homeschooling because, as he says, "I never learned anything in school." We were both gifted/talented kids!

I resent the way that education has become a consumer-driven, one-size-fits-all product. Upper-class parents are pushing and pushing their children to be "above average," without concern for them as individuals, or their learning styles or personalities. And I've decided that what Ms. Cohn represents is exactly what I detest, which is why I decided to homeschool in the first place!

Erin Elaine


Do the math.

Bromwell: five principals in ten years in one of the wealthiest neighborhood schools in Denver. Miss P is hired by a veteran principal away from highly rated Carson Elementary. The young, less experienced principal puts Miss P on a remediation plan. What a joke. Principal Cohn won't last at Bromwell. I am biased: Sweet Pea saved my bacon when my kids needed help to meet Colorado's reading standards.

A leader at DPS needs to intervene and send a veteran principal to Bromwell and Miss P to whatever DPS school she wants to go to. She is a very good teacher, and she loves to teach.

Kenneth Sun


"Fool's Gold," Martin Cizmar, June 3

The Gold Crush

There are 194 named mountain ranges in Arizona, a state about 300 by 400 miles in size. Rather than these being like what you find in other places — volcanic mountains — the land sunk, and what looks like mountains is the part that didn't sink. This makes for the most dangerous mountain climbing imaginable. As a kid rock-hounding with my dad, I tried to climb a five-foot bluff; in retrospect, I've found climbing Colorado's Pikes Peak less dangerous.

My guess: Jesse Capen didn't know what he was getting into. He probably fell and got a head injury his first day there, never came to, and mountain lions finished him off, dragging his body into their cave or lair. Or he ran afoul of one of the local crazies with delusions of grandeur; gold can do that to schizoid men addled from the hot sun in this most mysterious, hostile place.

Gene W. Edwards

Colorado Springs

"And the Beat Goes On," Patricia Calhoun, June 10

Poem on the Range

The Kerouac School has progressed over time from a haphazard mix pulled together by the simple will, and friends, of Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman — the centrifugal force majeure of the Rockies poetry and Buddhist arts scene — to an established writing program with an MFA and all the bells and whistles of any in the "rebel establishment." As a former student who, like Birman, worked closely with Anne and Allen during a time in the mid-'90s when Naropa proper was going through its second round of accreditation, I can tell Westword readers and the world that putting this program together every year is no small feat. A lot of the writers and artists involved are not traditional academics — both a good and not-so-good thing in the scheme of things.

What someone will get out of a summer program is a lifetime of ideas. Ideas in the sense that your mind is blown. What the Kerouac School lacks in the practical, real-world sense of publishing (not that it hasn't had graduates go on to publish with the likes of Penguin and more), it more than makes up for with a real DIY attitude and commandeering the tools of that same publishing industry. Like the Beats who are the spiritual precursors of this school within a school, your friendships turn into lifelong partnerships, and lives intermingle. And when the right time comes — as co-founder Anne Waldman likes to say — the world is indeed "safe for poetry." But is the poetry safe for the world? Let's hope not!

Bil Brown

Prague School of Poetics

"Seasonings Greetings," Juliet Wittman, June 10

Spice of Life

This non-story is the height of how food culture is getting absurdly pretentious. So it's no longer enough for food to be low-fat, free- range, organic, local, gluten-free and pumped full of all manner of other hyped-up marketing ploys designed to create fake value? Now, for our food to be edible, we have to buy overpriced spices that get overly romanticized descriptions? You can't be serious that real people actually buy $9 an ounce truffled salt ( Is that really making one a better cook — or just more able to brag about the deviled eggs at the dinner party? Please spare us the elitist food-snob tripe.

Jordi Xular

Posted at

Suggestion to Bill Penzey: Try a little Vanilla Spice Sugar from the Savory Spice shop to offset that bitterness you're tasting. Savory sells quality spices and interesting blends at reasonable prices. You can make it as basic or complex as you wish. I've never experienced any elitist or snobbish treatment from any Savory employee. Give 'em a try.

David Michalski


"Something From Nothing," Laura Shunk, May 27

The Vine Print

"You can taste the difference between the warm tomato straight from the vine and the one that's been in the refrigerator for a couple of hours." Hmmm, maybe that's because tomatoes should not be stored in a fridge! I'll assume that it was an offhand comment, and that the chef knows that tomatoes should not be refrigerated.

But it does make me wonder.

Daniel Steuer


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