'No Comment' no help in trauma flap

June 19, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

The Washington County Hospital's decision to shut down its trauma center had one predictable consequence: The appearance of a story in a major metropolitan newspaper which made it appear that the yokels in Western Maryland can't get anything right, since this is the first time a state trauma center has shut down.

Unfortunately, the surgeons who felt they could no longer cover the large number of shifts a trauma center requires declined to comment for the Baltimore Sun's June 16 story.

That ensured that their point of view was effectively muffled. There's another side to this situation and until everybody involved hears it, I fear there won't be a solution.

Washington County school administrators began this week with a two-day reteat, but they'll have some good news awaiting them when they return.


A staffer in the school system's Gifted and Talented program office said Monday that the phone had been "ringing off the hook" with calls from parents seeking information and applications for the new "magnet" school program at Fountaindale Elementary School in Hagerstown's North End.

Monday was the first day to apply for the program, which will have a 40-pupil program for gifted students and special art and music classes for all students.

If the early interest is any education, Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan seems to be on the right track for a program she said would bring "voluntary redistricting" to the school.

One of Morgan's stated goals early on was to get parents with children in private schools to reconsider the public system. She didn't say this, but she's also chosen not to take a hard line on redistricting, which might push more affluent families to choose private schools over a move to a public school with a greater concentration of students from low-income families.

As any band parent will tell you, there's research aplenty to support the idea that music instruction improves a child's performance in other areas. What Morgan is counting on is that in exchange for this educational carrot, parents will do what the School Board failed to do is the last round of redistricting.

Speaking of schools, a recent column by the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jane Eisner reported on the recent of a University of Minnesota study of 72,000 students in 127 schools across the U.S. confirms that smaller is better, because teachers, students and administrators all have a more personal relationship with each other.

How big is too big? The study was vague on that point, noting only that students in high schools of several hundred did better than those in schools with several thousand students.

Eisner acknowledges that consolidation is the trend, but notes that to combat the ill effects of overly large institutions, many schools are creating smaller "learning communities" to break the larger student population into more manageable chunks.

In 2001 Hagerstown Soccer Club brought 72 teams and 5,000 people to the area for the 11th annual Mason-Dixon Cup competition. This year's competition is scheduled this weekend, on June 22 and 23.

I mention this because earlier this month, The Associated Press reported that the city of Erie, Pa. lost its largest tourist event, the Continental Alliance Cupo soccer tournament, because tourney organizers felt there weren't ernough community activities for the players.

The loss came despite a last-ditch effect by the hotel developer Nick Scott Sr., to keep the tournament and its 13,000 visitors by cutting room rates by 10 percent.

I've written about this before, but do so again because this is an opportunity to get thousands of people who are coming here anyway to do more - and spend more - during their stay.

But it will take some commited volunteers, local government and the Convention and Visitors' Bureau to do what another group did with the Western Maryland Blues Fest Blue Fest. Any takers?

When I read that the City of Hagerstown planned to spend $100,000 to update a North End park no bigger than a quarter acre, I thought, "That figure can't be right."

But according to Rod Tissue, the city engineer, $45,000 of that cost is to rebuild a crumbling storm drain system that causes the intersection next to the park to flood when it rains.

Other items to be done include resetting the base which holds a 6,000-pound cannon from the Spanish-American War, re-doing a crumbling walkway and refurbishing the deteriorated stone wall on the park's south side.

The city will also add three street lights, of the type placed on The Terrace, erect three flagpoles and create a memorial for disabled American veterans of all wars.

At a time when the city government is planning to raise taxes again, it's more important than ever to question the cost of government. But as Tissue told me, nothing has been done to the park for 100 years. Spending some money once every century to honor the nation's veterans is less-than adequate compensation for all of their sacrifices.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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