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Pangborn project happened because many joined hands

September 08, 2006

Educating children is a difficult job. It is tough for all those involved - parents, teachers, staff and community. When things go well, as they did with the recent State Interagency Committee for School Construction (IAC) decision regarding the Pangborn construction project, it is nice when the efforts of those involved are recognized.

On Aug. 6, Del. Chris Shank, R-Washington, sent a letter to the editor that, on the surface, appeared to do just that; but the content of the letter was, in reality, little more than a political commercial. The letter contains inaccuracies and omissions that slight all those involved in this project, while heaping praise in a partisan manner and on people with limited involvement.

When the decision was made to move forward with the Pangborn project, the BOE did an analysis to determine the best course of action for the construction project. With the size of the Pangborn site, a replacement school could be built or a renovation of the existing structure could take place.

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The architect informed the board that a replacement would be nearly $1 million less than a renovation. Further, the new construction would be less disruptive to students and school operations than a renovation.

Safety issues also favored new construction. The board voted to move forward with new construction and forwarded plans to the state IAC for review and approval.

Using a formula for renovation versus replacement, the IAC determined and informed the BOE that based on their findings, a renovation could take place, and as a result, state funding would be based on a renovation project. This would have resulted in the state contribution being $400,000 less than would be expected for a replacement.

At no time would the BOE have been willing to accept a "substandard renovation." Even with a reduced state contribution, the replacement was still the fiscally and educationally responsible option, saving the county $600,000 and limiting disruption to the educational process.

The board immediately filed an appeal and staff went to work preparing a well-documented and compelling presentation for the State IAC.

Staff spent countless hours on these efforts while enlisting the help of the Pangborn PTA and CAC to support what all knew was the best option for kids. It took very little time for the state IAC to render a favorable decision.

Thanks should go to an extensive list of people and groups. First and foremost, thanks to Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan and board staff for their extraordinary efforts; to the Pangborn PTA and CAC for their support; to Drs. Grasmick and Lever and the entire state IAC for their open-minded and receptive attitudes toward the board appeal presentation.

To the entire delegation from both sides of the aisle, who supported the board's efforts.

Also thanks to other officials and citizens who took the time to attend the appeal hearing. A special thanks goes to Sen. Don Munson, who also personally attended the hearing and worked behind the scene for a favorable outcome.

Shank's attendance and support are appreciated and he was accurate when he said that teamwork and community involvement are essential for moving the county forward.

But using education to promote political partisanship is not in the best interest of anyone involved in the most important and difficult responsibility we have in Washington County, the education of our children.

Wayne D. Ridenour is a member of the Washington County Board of Education.

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