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Principals Deserve Incentives. (Letters and Books).


Frances Groff's cogent article regarding the principal shortage was of special interest to us in Maryland. Half the nation's school districts, including those in Maryland, face a school principal shortage every bit as critical as the teacher crunch.

More than two-thirds of Maryland's middle and high school principals are eligible to retire within five years and these looming retirements, as well as long hours, low pay and increased accountability for student scores on state tests, have discouraged many from wanting to work as school-based administrators.

Governor Parris Glendening has been responsive to the salary demands of the powerful Maryland State Teachers Association. He should be equally sensitive to the dire principal crisis in Maryland and include sufficient funds in his FY 2003 budget to help recruit and retain school-based administrators.

John R. Leopold



A Risk-Management Strategy for PCB-Contaminated Sediments, by the Committee on Remediation of PCB-Contaminated Sediments, National Research Council. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001. 432 pages, $45.

Polychlorinated bi-phenyls (PCBs), chemicals formerly used by industry, were banned when they were identified as potential cancer-causing agents. Unfortunately, they have already polluted air, water and soil, where they slowly degrade and can change into other chemical compounds over time.

PCBs can contaminate fish, wildlife and humans. Especially at risk are Native Americans, subsistence fishermen and hunters, and other people who depend on fish and wildlife for their food. Advisories issued by state and federal agencies about contaminated fish and game are aimed at this population, but apt to be ignored.

A Risk-Management Strategy for PCB-Contaminated Sediments explores the cost of removing PCBs from soil and sediment under lakes and streams. More important--for policymakers--is a discussion of the need for site-specific risk management plans based on accurate evaluations of PCB contamination. These plans, according to the committee, must involve all affected, not just state and federal regulators.

The book's continuing theme is that each site must be assessed to determine the level of contamination, the real (and perceived) risks to humans and wildlife, and the effect that PCB contamination has on economic, cultural and social uses of streams, lakes, rivers, bays and surrounding land. As the committee explains, there is no "one size fits all" answer to reducing PCB exposure. A plan must assess short- and long-term risks and identify ways to meet the needs and concerns of a well-informed and involved local community.

Although the chapter on the physical characteristics of PCBs requires some knowledge of organic chemistry, the chapters that discuss a risk management framework; community input; goals and risks; options; and decision making are clear to the layman. The discussion of "risk tradeoffs" is especially important to assess the potential health, ecological, societal, cultural and economic risks that arise from a cleanup plan. The discussions allow the reader (and with luck those affected) to consider multiple risk-management options with several cleanup methods, rather than seeking a magic bullet that will solve every problem.

The committee also discusses implementing and evaluating the management plan. To be effective, there should be a goal that all affected parties--regulatory agencies included--will listen to others during the decision making stage, consider all concerns and address them as soon as possible.

Although state and federal regulatory agencies are responsible for implementation, the committee warns they cannot operate in a vacuum, but must involve those affected. It also is the responsibility of those affected to understand the issues, goals and risks, and agree to monitor and evaluate those goals during implementation.

--Cheryl Runyon, NCSL.
COPYRIGHT 2001 National Conference of State Legislatures
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Publication:State Legislatures
Date:Dec 1, 2001
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