Letters: Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Letters to the Editor

School for Controversy

To the editor: Judging by the responses from the company and Reid Lyon, Betty Brink’s article on reading programs (“School for Profit,” Jan. 18, 2006) has certainly gotten Voyager’s attention. If Dr. Lyon were not now working for Randy Best, I doubt he would have gone to all the trouble to defend Voyager. (Best recently sold Voyager to ProQuest, Inc. for $340 million and hired Dr. Lyon as senior vice president for research and evaluation for Best Associates.) He knows perfectly well that Voyager has no long-term independent research to prove its effectiveness. He also knows full well that it is a type of eclectic reading program and is not a pure, direct, systematic approach to the teaching of phonemic awareness/decoding skills. It is also interesting that Dr. Lyon’s response gives no specific instances where Brink was wrong but simply makes general statements, most of which are in defense of his own reputation. I believe that most readers would be quite impressed with Brink’s diligence in presenting documented details.

If Voyager is so wonderful, it should stand on its own merit without enlisting deceptive methods to market it. In that case, why did the powers-that-be unscrupulously shove it into the Texas public schools by deliberately deceiving the Texas State Board of Education members at their meeting on July 15, 2004? The audiotape of that meeting is public information.

Why are classroom teachers not applauding Voyager if it is such a miraculous program? I have a friend who taught kindergarten in a nearby school district. When her low-performing school had to adopt Voyager because of its single-vendor status, the program led to total confusion among her students. They were being taught one state-adopted reading program in the morning and a Voyager program in the afternoon, but the skills were not aligned, and the students had no idea how the two concepts tied together. They dreaded doing the Voyager program, and the district is still ranked as low performing. My friend has a reasonable understanding of the scientific research behind reading acquisition, and she could see nothing positive that came from her students’ Voyager experiences.

I really respect Dr. Lyon, and it hurts to see him sell out to Randy Best, whose strongest asset seems to be his ability to leverage his political connections.

Donna Garner

Hewitt, Texas

To the editor: I was a bit confused by your article about the Fort Worth schools’ purchase of a reading program. If I understood correctly, you felt it was improper for a school employee to provide advice to a company regarding what a particular product should do and how to improve it. I was quite surprised by this assertion, because this has become one of the most common practices in the commercial marketplace today.

For example, Boeing Corp., over a period of many months, brought more than 100 employees from a number of airlines to their design centers nationwide to provide ideas on how to build a better airplane. They ranged from flight attendants to chief financial officers. None was paid by Boeing. When the Boeing 777 was introduced, it was purchased by every one of the airlines whose employees worked on the recommendations. Using your logic, every one of those purchases should be suspect. The flight attendants ended up with easier planes to work in, and CFO’s got airplanes that are less expensive to operate. Are these people guilty of impropriety in your eyes? I know that Boeing has expanded that program significantly for the new 787, whose launch may be the most successful in aircraft history.

If I can find a vendor who will ask me first and work to give me what I need, they always get preferential treatment. I will take making my job easier or doing a job right as compensation any day. I don’t think that makes me an unethical person.

Similarly, it seems to me that Ms. Sonnenberg was working to help Sopris design a better program for reading. In my mind, nothing could be better for everyone. Instead of viewing Ms Sonnenberg’s activities as a negative as Mr. Mendoza did, he should have praised the situation. And Ms Sonnenberg never received any compensation. Please show me what is wrong with that.

Chip Lawson


To the editor: May I congratulate you on your outstanding article detailing the conflicts of interest surrounding Voyager in Fort Worth? Our country is desperately in need of investigative journalism such as this to show how corruption operates big-time in the purchase of school materials. There is such waste of public funds, and the folks tied to Bush are making money hand over fist at the expense of children’s real reading experiences in schools.

Dr. Jean W. Fennacy

Director, Reading/Language Arts

School of Education,

Fresno Pacific University

Fresno, Calif.


Last week’s cover story, “Blowing Up the West Side,” incorrectly described how the new Arlington Heights post office will be funded. Jagee Holdings will pay for the design and construction of the new building. Fort Worth Weekly regrets the error.

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