This column is not funded by taxpayers

plaques are

April 27, 2008|By TERRY HEADLEE

Washington County Board of Education member Donna Brightman wants the board to spend some time at its May 6 public business meeting reviewing its policy that determines whose names appear on plaques for new school buildings.

My first reaction upon hearing that was: "You've got to be kidding me."

Then, I thought about it some more and realized that Brightman might actually have a good point - which I'll get to in a minute.

First, to bring you all up to speed, our education reporter, Erin Cunningham, reported in Friday's edition of The Herald-Mail that Brightman wants the school board to discuss why her name will not be included on plaques being placed at three county elementary schools opening in August.

Brightman recently learned she will be the only current school board member whose name won't be on any of the plaques at Rockland Woods, Maugansville and Pangborn elementary schools.


That's because Brightman was appointed to the board in May 2007 and wasn't around when the first construction contracts for the three schools were approved in February, March and April 2007.

The policy clearly states that school board members, the superintendent of schools and the Board of County Commissioners "holding office at the time of the construction contract award will be represented on the plaque."

Now, here's the rub: W. Edward Forrest's name will appear on all three plaques since he was on the board when the contracts first were approved.

But Forrest resigned April 16, 2007, and was replaced by Brightman, who ironically sits on the board's facilities committee.

The date Forrest resigned is significant because the construction contract for the final school was approved April 3 - just 13 days earlier.

This might sound like we're splitting hairs here, but this is an important distinction because if the school board had tabled the vote, then Forrest's name, I guess, would not appear on the plaque at Pangborn Elementary School.

I'm sure Forrest doesn't care one way or the other, but I made that point in order to show you how truly ridiculous this potentially could get.

For the record, I do find the plaques useful, particularly when documenting for the historical record when a public building was completed.

So here's one solution: Go ahead and change the policy and add Brightman's name to the plaque.

And while you're at it, be sure to change the policy to include the phrase "funded by the taxpayers of Washington County."

After all, without taxpayers, there wouldn't be three new elementary schools in Washington County.

There also wouldn't be any plaques on which to etch their names, unless you believe the elected officials will fork over their own money.

Terry Headlee is executive editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7594, or by e-mail at

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