Today’s news:

The Civic Scene: Edison HS graduate U.S. Navy commander

In an age when the bashing of the New York City public schools and their teachers is a common occurrence, it is great to find a story about the accomplishment of one of our high school graduates.

On Dec. 8, I attended the commissioning of the latest Aegis Guided Missile Destroyer of the United States Ship Bulkeley (DDG 84), adjacent to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in Manhattan. The commander of this new destroyer is Capt. Carlos Del Toro, USN and he graduated from Thomas A. Edison Vocational & Technical H.S. in 1979.

Del Toro had such a good experience at Edison that on Dec. 5 he came back to visit his old school. This was just three days before one of the greatest days of his life. He actually returned to see his old English teacher, Anne Haight, who is now principal of Edison. As happens often with dedicated teachers, Mrs. Haight and Del Toro kept in contact all these years.

He told her about his marriage to the former Betty Lopez and the birth of their four children Christopher, Marcel, Brice and John. Haight kept him informed of her progression to assistant principal at Edison HS, her time in the Queens High Schools District Office and then her surprise appointment as principal of Edison. Another of his old teachers was Melvin Hartstein, assistant principal in the Math and Science Department at Edison.

Carlos Del Toro was born in Havana, Cuba in 1962 and immigrated to the United States where he lived in Long Island City. He came to Edison to study electronics. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy in and graduated in 1983 and then served several tours of duty aboard a frigate, a destroyer, a cruiser and an aircraft carrier. He was deployed twice to the Arabian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm. He has also served a tour of duty in the Pentagon.

Continuing the science and academic learning he started at Edison, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1983, a Master of Science degree in space systems engineering and electrical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School, earned a Master of Arts degree in legislative affairs from the George Washington University with a subspecialty in political science.

He also found the time to attend the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. where he graduated with distinction and received a Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies.

The Aegis Destroyer, which Commander Del Toro is commanding, is one of the most powerful warships in the U.S. Navy. It is a 5,095-foot long, 9,300-ton ship of the line which has the AN/Spy-ID phased radar which scans all directions simultaneously.

The ship is equipped to fire 96 Standard surface-to-surface missiles, Tomahawk surface-to-surface missiles, and antisubmarine missiles. It carries two SH-60B undersea warfare helicopters plus the PHALANX Close in weapons system, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles and other different types of gun systems.

His biography describes Del Toro as a team member of the Council on Foreign Relations, as having served as legislative director for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, and directed several youth education programs.

One recent afternoon, about 4 p.m., Principal Haight reminisced with me about Del Toro. She described him as “a bright, sensitive, civic-minded teenager involved in the student government with a strong sense of service, self motivation — a wonderful person.” She then wistfully said, “Having known a student like this makes all the difficulties in teaching worthwhile.” Goes to show!

GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK

A story in the December 2001/January 2002 American Teacher told about the “Quiet Heroism” of two New York City paraprofessionals. On Sept. 11th Special Education UFT paraprofessionals Julia Martinet and Margaret Espinoza in the High School of Leadership and Public Service in Lower Manhattan stayed with and helped bring to safety their 11th grade charges, Becky and Stephanie, who were confined to wheelchairs.

These two heroic paraprofessionals pushed their charges as far as they could that fateful day and then carried them on their backs, although they are small women. With the help of another student and a stranger named Mark, they even managed to hoist their charges over a wall with a four-foot drop on the other side. The girls told how their paras comforted them every second that day. Chalk up another heroic deed for our school professionals.

BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK

I note that the House of Representatives has voted to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax on corporations, which requires corporations to at lease pay some tax no matter how many loopholes they can find. We usually pay our full share of taxes. If the package isn’t changed by the Senate, then companies will get rebates of taxes they have paid for the past 15 years.

This is all in the name of “economic stimulus.” IBM would receive $1.4 billion, GM would obtain $883 miIlion, GE $671 million, Chevron Texaco $572 million, and Enron $854 million. Just think how many schools, parks, harbors, mass transit facilities, water treatment plants and sewers we could build with this money.

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