Schnebly says consolidation report can be challenged

March 21, 2001

Schnebly says consolidation report can be challenged


A Washington County Commissioner said Wednesday that the school consolidation report doesn't have to be accepted word for word by the Board of Education and that the report can be challenged by the public.


Commissioner John Schnebly's comment was similar to comments he made to a Funkstown Elementary School parent two weeks ago during a public meeting at which concern was expressed that all the issues were not considered when the report was drafted.

"We're not saying that the report's 100 percent right," Schnebly said at a March 6 meeting with the Funkstown Town Council, according to a tape of that meeting played for a reporter Wednesday afternoon.


When contacted afterward, Schnebly said he didn't mean the report was inaccurate by the statement, but that there was room for parts of it to be disputed.

"Some of the parents thought that the board would accept everything in the report as gospel," Schnebly said Wednesday.

Schnebly was a member of the Facilities Review Committee, which is proposing that nine elementary schools be consolidated. The report considers consolidating Cascade and Smithsburg, Winter Street and Salem Avenue, Maugansville and Conococheague and Emma K. Doub, Fountain Rock and Funkstown elementary schools.

Cascade, Winter Street, Maugansville, Conococheague and Funkstown would close under the plan. The report states the county could save $1.6 million a year in operating costs with the consolidations.

Pam Newhouse, president of the Funkstown Elementary Citizens Advisory Council, questioned at the March 6 meeting the method by which the report was written.

She said most of the residents in Washington County did not know the Facilities Review Committee had been meeting to discuss consolidation. The meetings weren't listed on meeting agendas of the County Commissioners or the Board of Education, she said.

"There is no excuse for the public not being notified about these meetings," Newhouse said. "That says to me that you're doing stuff under the table and that you're discussing things that you don't want the public to know."

Newhouse said she understood that consolidation could save money, but she emphasized that parents should have been asked to help draft the report. The Facilities Review Committee was made up of two commissioners, two School Board members and two School Board administrators.

Parents were not permitted to sit on the committee, officials have said.

"Public perception right now is very, very poor," Newhouse said. "I do not trust the County Commissioners, nor do I trust our Board of Education at all. There was no parental input on the Facilities Review Committee."

She also asked whether the committee considered the possibility of future growth in its proposal.

"I think anybody writing that report would be pretty stupid if they didn't take into consideration the growth pattern," Schnebly said.

He also said he wants the consolidation issue to be out in the open and said the School Board should be able to discuss it openly.

"My primary thrust here was to get the Board of Education to deal with something like this," Schnebly said. "Every time we bring the subject up to them, they hyperventilate and go in the fetal position.

"Herb Hardin, for God's sake, in the paper says he didn't know anything about the report, and he's been sitting in on the meetings for six months."

Hardin, the president of the School Board and member of the committee, said at the beginning of January he hadn't seen the report at the time.

On Wednesday, he said he didn't receive the report until a few days after he made the comment. He also said Schnebly must have been under pressure at the March 6 meeting when he made his remarks.

Hardin said two of the committee members were drafting the report and that they were the only ones who had seen it at the time.

"I did not have the report at that time, and he knows that," Hardin said. "We made modifications of two or three pages at a time, but it was not completely compiled. He must've been under pressure and he responded this way."

The School Board and County Commissioners have set up four town meetings to discuss consolidation.

The School Board is expected to vote on whether to accept or reject all or portions of the report at its meeting on Aug. 20.

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