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Letters to the editor for 7/7

July 07, 2002

Is Maginnis trashing BOE to sell papers?



To the editor:

One would hope that Herald-Mail Editor Bob Maginnis is in possession of sufficient journalistic ethics to prevent him from exercising lowbrow tabloid sensibilities in order to sell papers. Why then, we wonder, has he repeatedly portrayed the Washington County School Board as riddled with rifts that are far from reality and that only could have been fomented in his imagination?

We hope his integrity as a journalist precludes his using concocted conflicts to sell papers. We sincerely hope that the sneering attitude evident in his columns is merely due to ignorance of how a school board functions and what the Washington County Board has accomplished this year.

At the outset of the 2001-2002 school year, one of the Board's primary goals was to improve communication with the superintendent and staff, as well as with the community at large. We believe that we have had great success with this goal.

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On June 19, in The Herald-Mail Online column, Maginnis left the public with the impression that Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan proposed a magnet school to circumvent Board failures in redistricting. This is a malicious, distorted, and destructive spin on how the board and the superintendent have worked together this year.

Experience tells us that there is more than one way to accomplish a goal. During the redistricting hearings, what families were telling the school system was that they were unhappy with forced redistricting. The Board did not "blink," as Maginnis insinuated in his June 30 article. We and Dr. Morgan "went back to the drawing board" to find more responsive ways to balance enrollment and diversity among our schools, increase student achievement, and provide families with choice as an alternative to forced redistricting. The magnet program idea that emerged is a win-win-win for families, students, and the school system and was jointly developed by board and the superintendent.

The interview with Scott Nicewarner On June 30 shamefully portrays board relations with parents at a new low level. Maginnis is mystified (or disappointed, perhaps) that Nicewarner did not "walk away" or did not decide to "do battle" with the school system.

Maginnis should know that mature adults in a democratic society often disagree on issues, but are still capable of working together for the sake of the greater good. When persons on both sides of an issue perceive that they each argue in good faith, they are capable of working out their differences for the benefit of the community. We know that we may at times not see eye to eye with Nicewarner, but we welcome the opportunity to work with such an outstanding advocate for education.

Unconscionably, each of the positive views and ideas expressed by Nicewarner in that interview are unfairly punctuated by baseless jabs against the board. A glaring example is Maginnis' mean-spirited observation that schools eagerly exploit parents' labor but do not involve them in forming education policy.

We believe that Maginnis has woefully little knowledge of what is going on in his own back yard. His statement is a slap in the face to parents who sit on individual school improvement teams and jointly with staff and other community members decide on school policy. Fountaindale parents worked many hours with staff to hammer out a vision and plan for their specialized program.

Dozens of parents participated this year on the Alcohol and Drug Task Force, the Study Groups for Specialized Programs and Models, and some even on the Management Review Team to help formulate policy for the direction in which the school system should be moving.

Perhaps Maginnis needs to get more involved in schools to see what really is going on.

It's hard to tell what's in it for The Herald-Mail to continuously pummel the Board and the school system derisively at seemingly every chance it gets, just like the proverbial playground bully.

However, we do know what's in it for the community. The paper pays scant attention when our schools' scores are among the highest on state and national tests.

By willfully ignoring what a strong public school system Washington County has and by spreading baseless, negative innuendo, Maginnis and the paper are not hurting the Board, but children and the community.

Will high-end companies, after reading The Herald-Mail, want to locate their businesses in Washington County? Or their employees and families? Has Maginnis ever wondered why so few people desire to run for the Board? Could it be the undeserved disrespect and contempt they will be subjected to by his paper? What's in it for Maginnis? Surely he wants our community to prosper.

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