Your letters, April 27

April 25, 2014 

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    Send letters of up to 300 words and guest columns of up to 600 words to editor@newsobserver.com. All submissions may be edited for space and clarity.

When? For eons

Melissa Rooney asks, “When did Jesus take a back seat to the Easter Bunny?” (DN, April 20, bit.ly/1jvRkI8)

Let’s see … after the wintery death of the world, a spring holiday celebrating rebirth with symbols of fertility like eggs and rabbits. A holiday held each year around the spring equinox.

Face it: people were celebrating this time of year with “Easter Bunnies” long before Jesus, just as they were celebrating the arrival of the sun at the winter solstice long before Christmas.

Jim DiGuiseppi

Durham

My heartfelt thanks

As spring arrives bringing with it increased traffic – vehicles, cyclists and joggers – I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the efforts made over the past six months to improve conditions at the N.C. 751 bridge in Duke Forest where my beloved older son, Merrill, died in a fiery car crash in October 2012.

It was important to me as I began grieving that his death serve a greater good, and so I wrote letters expressing my concerns about the lack of guardrails, no lighting, soft shoulders, steep embankments to the railroad tracks below, blind spots from both directions due to the bridge’s elevation over the railroad tracks and unsafe speed limit of 55 mph. There are 5,000-plus vehicles that traverse the bridge daily and the bridge is narrower than the road as evidenced by black scrape marks on the crumbling side walls. There is no “share the road” for cyclists and joggers when two vehicles are on the bridge.

In response to my concerns, sturdy guardrails, reflective light panels and lower speed limit (from 55 mph to 45 mph) signs in the vicinity of the bridge have been installed. My heartfelt thanks go to Bruce Siceloff, whose N&O column, “Road Worrier,” brought my concerns about the bridge to public attention; WNCN’s Justin Quesinberry for his reporting; Ellen Reckhow, Durham County commissioner whose quick, insightful response to me was invaluable; Bill Bell, mayor of Durham for sending my letter to appropriate staff; Bob Wilson of the Durham News, and, especially, to Patrick Wilson and James Mills with the N.C. Department of Transportation, for their recognition of the unsafe conditions at the bridge as well as their concerted work to see the improvements through to completion. I am appreciative of Mr. Wilson’s diligence in keeping me informed every step of the way as the project moved forward.

I am also very grateful to friends and family for their support of my efforts to improve safety at the bridge.

While these improvements create a measure of safety, they will not bring Merrill back, and the 83-year-old, crumbling concrete bridge is still narrower than the roadway, is still elevated to span the railroad tracks creating blind driving spots from both directions, and is still hazardous for vehicles, cyclists and joggers. I implore NCDOT to replace the bridge sooner rather than later … for the greater good.

Tamela Davis

Durham

Good reading news

Let's couple some good reading news at Y.E. Smith Elementary School this Spring with a pitch for you to be part of the story.

More than 30 elementary school students at Y.E. Smith have upped their reading skills. Credit the skill and determination of the kids, first. Credit a similar number of Durham volunteer tutors dedicated to the proposition that they can help young students read better – one kid at a time. They're called “Rotary Reading Rangers.” If you can read, you can help.

With the support of Durham Public Schools, we launched the program only 21 months ago through a partnership between the Durham Rotary Club and the East Durham Children's Initiative. Our goal was to move fast – and get to work quickly. Many DPS children face literacy challenges.

For now, our main focus at Y.E. Smith is the lower grades. The school has more than 400 students, about a third of whom are not passing standard reading tests. Ultimately, we want to populate all schools in DPS, beginning with the zone covered by the East Durham Children’s Initiative.

Rangers work with teachers to understand the needs of individual students and to get paired up. Some kids may need work on flash cards, others with phonics and still others on comprehension. Educators provide initial training. Volunteers are screened and vetted by DPS. The process calls for prospective tutors to complete a simple online form.

If we can get the right number of volunteers, we can improve literacy scores in significant portions. It is reported that 25 hours spent with a child can help that child move up one year in reading.

Join us. “Rotary Reading Rangers” is beginning to yield great outcomes. Some students at YE Smith have demonstrated 1.5 years’ worth of growth in 5 months.

To learn more go to bit.ly/1hd2nsW

Todd Taylor

The writer is vice-president of the Durham Rotary Club and North American facilities manager at Duke CE in Durham.

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