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Thumbs up, thumbs down

September 22, 2007

Thumbs up to Hagerstown Community College officials, for waiving all customary fees for the use of the Kepler Theater for Wednesday's forum on the Hagerstown refugee resettlement program run by the Virginia Council of Churches. HCC did what institutions of higher learning should do - made it possible for those with expert knowledge to share it with residents of the local community. Thanks, HCC.

Thumbs down to the Maryland Department of Education, for cutting the essay and short-answer questions on the Maryland High School Assessments by 2009. School officials here say the change will make it easier to score tests. Donna Hanlin, Washington County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Instruction, said the change won't alter the "emphasis we place on writing." We'll see.

Thumbs up to the late Elmer Kaelin Jr., former president of Potomac Edison, for the work he did to improve local education by donating more than $7 million in computers for classrooms in the electric utility's service area. In 1989, Kaelin was given the state's Pate Award for business leadership, in part because he realized that the utility's customers were as important as its leaders.

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Thumsb down to Dan Rather, former CBS News anchorman, for filing a $70 million lawsuit against his long-time employer for making him a "scapegoat" for a discredited story about President Bush's military service during the Vietnam War. Dan, even though you were an experienced reporter, you got fooled. Your employer depended on you not to let that happen, so give it up.

Thumbs up to William VanMetre, an 8-year-old boy from McConnellsburg, Pa., for having the presence of mind to call 911 after his mother fell down a 12-step staircase after tripping over the family dog. After William made his call, paramedics arrived and took his mother to the Fulton County (Pa.) Medical Center. Mom was treated and has now returned to work at Giant Food, is proud of her son's ability to take quick action.

Thumbs up to Henry Willard of Shepherdstown, W.Va., for donating the Medal of Honor won by his great-grandfather, 1st Lt. George W. Hooker in 1862, to Antietam National Battlefield, where it is on public display now. Hooker, a Union Army commander, won the medal for persuading 116 Confederate soldiers to surrender by telling them that a large force of Union soldiers was right behind him on the trail.

Thumbs up to all of the sponsors for "The Big Read," an event that aims to get more people in local communities reading. The month-long event kicks off Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Hagerstown's Maryland Theatre.

The sponsors include: Washington County Library, Board of Education, Chamber of Commerce, Greater Hagerstown Committee, Hagerstown Community College, University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, Maryland Theatre, Authentic Community Theater, Bar Association, United Way of Washington County, The Herald-Mail Co., Benjamin Art Gallery, NBC25, Discovery Station, Washington County Arts Council and the Sisters in Spirit Book Club.

We thank all of them for making possible an activity that should stimulate many to read "To Kill a Mockingbird," and hopefully, to think about the book's meaning.

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