We are always looking for ways to improve: As you pointed out in your article, STEP Inc. serves more than 10,000 residents of St. Louis County [Geri L. Dreiling, "Ms. Step," Nov. 14]. As a community-action agency for more than 30 years, STEP has served the most at-risk people in our community to support them in achieving self sufficiency. Like many nonprofit organizations, we struggle with the balance between providing the necessary services and paying staff fair salaries while balancing our budget. A visit to STEP will reveal a fast-paced environment with a client base whose needs range from basic survival to complex, often crisis situations.
As with most, if not all nonprofit organizations, the mandate of the board is related to policy formulation, strategic direction and financial and program oversight. Any nonprofit board struggles to do its job without becoming inappropriately involved in the day-to-day operation of the organization.
There are typically two sides to every story. It appears much of what was contained in your article was extracted from legal depositions. The agency's side of the story was not fully developed because confidential personnel and legal issues were involved. Every organization experiences personnel issues and deals with them accordingly based on the information available at the time, as well as the guidance from the legal professionals involved. STEP is no exception.
Your article has given us much to consider as a board and as community volunteers who are committed to supporting the mission of STEP now and into a difficult economic future. As we indicated in the article, we are always looking for ways to improve.
Board of Directors, Executive Committee
Put Slay in control: Amy Hilgemann and Rochell Moore have a difficult road to travel [D.J. Wilson, "Board Games," Nov. 21]. In approaching the task of improving St. Louis schools, they must realize they are dealing with a job-creation institution and not an educational institution. No school system in Missouri is as top-heavy with administrators as the public schools in St. Louis. The mentality of the institution must be changed before the schools will improve.
Mayor Francis Slay and everyone else can promote St. Louis and study its problems. Until the schools become good enough to attract a middle class back to the city, the slow death of St. Louis will continue. No institution affects an area as much as the schools.
A first step would be to put the schools under the control of Slay. A second step would be to appoint board members the likes of Hilgemann and Moore.
A great voice silenced: I had the good fortune to work with J.A. Lobbia at the Riverfront Times in the mid- to late '80s [Ray Hartmann, "J.A. Lobbia: A Tribute," Nov. 28]. Both there, and later at the Village Voice, she was a brilliant reporter -- diligent, intelligent, persistent. Her passing at such a young age silences a great voice in journalism.
Saving the Village
It is just a damn shame: As a former Maplewood resident, I was shocked and saddened to read the story about the residents on Alicia Street being forced out of their homes by this stupid real-estate, big box store project [Safir Ahmed, "Selling Out," Nov. 28]. I understand that the city needs the money to provide better services, but I wonder if the cost of uprooting longtime homeowners is really worth it. It is just a damn shame!
It's a Wrap
Thanks, Jim and Kara: I would like to express my dismay at the loss of the St. Louis Film Office [Eddie Silva, "Final Cut," Nov. 21]. When a film company comes to town, the first call they make is to the Film Office. Why? you may ask. The Film Office has a wonderful list of locations, vendors and knowledge of the inner working of St. Louis that facilitates producers from LA, New York and St. Louis.
St. Louisans bitch that we're such an ass-backward city; they do studies on all these forward-thinking ideas, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and shelve the ideas until it's time to cough up for another study. One study alone could pay for the Film Office for years! I believe one of the first ideas in being a first-class city is "Don't go backward." Shutting down the Film Office is as backward as it gets.
I met Jim Leonis in August 1998 on the set of my film Arcade Bowl. He introduced himself and offered me any help I might need in the future. He has been my friend ever since. This summer, the St. Louis Film Office debuted the first (and last?) Annual Filmmakers Showcase, with over 100 entries. One of those films was mine. Three years after shooting and thousands of dollars of debt later, I had the great pleasure of sitting in a dark theater with my family, friends and colleagues and watching my film. I can honestly say that was one of the finest nights in my life. That night was a result of Jim Leonis and Kara Hollensbe's hard work and vision. They are a valuable asset to the St. Louis film community and will be missed.
Paul H. Alpert
Fiasco Film Co.