Fairfax Should Promote

Trails and Nature Sites

The noble effort to promote Fairfax County as a tourism destination ["Rolling Out the Welcome Mat," Fairfax Extra, Sept. 29] is a long overdue no-brainer.

A growing form of tourism is that which targets themes. Ecotourism is an example. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recently published three books in a series, "Discover Our Wild Side."

In the volume on the coastal area, one finds three trails to be witnessed in Fairfax County: the Great Falls, Bull Run and Mason Neck trails. In 15 pages, a person has maps, site directions and descriptions, suggested travel loops and local contact information. Virginia Tourism Corp. distributes the free books.

Ideally, the Visit Fairfax group would link up with this state initiative and promote Fairfax's rich and diverse natural habitat.

Mike Zak

Annandale

Doubling Water Manager's

Pension Is an Outrage

The Fairfax Water Board's vote to double the pension for retiring General Manager Charlie C. Crowder ["Fairfax Water Doubles Pension of Retiring Manager," Metro, Sept. 28] is outrageous and unethical.

The manager and his successors are not entitled to this. This is another way this county cheats its taxpayers. Now there will be a rate increase to cover this outrageous retirement package.

I guess the Board of Supervisors did not have enough backbone to stop the raise.

Carol Loyd

Alexandria area

A Teacher Representative

Would Help School Board

As a recently retired Fairfax County elementary school teacher whose children were educated here, I feel strongly that there should be a nonvoting teacher representative on the School Board.

As one of the top school systems in the nation, we have a unique opportunity to lead the way by becoming one of the first to adopt such a logical and long-overdue proposal.

I respectfully call upon the Board of Supervisors, School Board, Superintendent Jack D. Dale and parent teacher student associations to immediately begin giving this idea serious consideration.

Such broad deliberation is needed to shed light on the question of whether we've been missing the forest for the trees regarding this issue. As a community, we may conclude that -- just as the addition of a student representative to the School Board made perfect sense -- the presence of a counterpart teacher representative could enrich the board's deliberations. After all, Fairfax County's 13,250 dedicated and hardworking teachers are the professionals whom we entrust on a daily basis to spend the most time face to face with our children in the classroom.

Indeed, our teachers' classrooms are the venues where the rubber hits the road -- where well-intentioned education policy and the real-world educational needs of students should most directly intersect. Our teachers have a clear and unique perspective regarding how our School Board's decisions truly affect the quality of student learning. Accordingly, I sincerely believe that a teacher representative could consistently provide our excellent School Board with invaluable input and urgently needed reality checks as it grapples with important and increasingly complex decisions that will have an indelible impact on our students and our county.

Determining the teacher representative's role, and the manner in which he or she is selected, will require thoughtful study. To keep the focus squarely on education policy, the new representative probably should not address such traditional labor issues as teachers' wages and benefits. To enhance effectiveness and continuity, he or she should perhaps serve at least a two-year term. While a selection process analogous to the one employed to select the student representative may be appropriate, it might prove more efficient and effective for our two main teacher organizations -- the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers and the Fairfax Education Association -- to alternately elect the teacher representative.

Clearly, the teacher representative must be someone with extensive and successful teaching experience. He or she must also be both an empathetic listener and a diplomatic and frank communicator of the constructive suggestions and concerns of Fairfax County's magnificent teachers, parents, students, school administrators and other interested citizens.

Pearl Z. Raikin

West Springfield

Pearl Raikin was a teacher at Newington Forest Elementary School in Springfield for almost 25 years.