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Who knew plaques on buildings could create so much drama?

May 06, 2008|By TIM ROWLAND

I vaguely remember a plaque in the lobby of my old junior high school that listed the names of the old fossils who were on the board when the building was constructed back in who knows when.

Obviously, I don't remember any of these names. And if I had, I would have hated them for facilitating those prison walls that kept me from more interesting and useful pursuits.

I guess, at some level, that I understand why school board member Donna Brightman is upset that her name was not to be included on the self-congratulatory plaques of three elementary schools opening in August. And I guess at some level I can understand why she was left out, seeing as how she wasn't part of the board at the time it decided to build the schools.

What I don't understand is why anyone cares.

Instead of Brightman, the name of Ed Forrest will appear along with other members of the board who voted for construction.

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No one is going to read the plaque 20 years from now and think, "Wow, W. Edward Forrest. What a visionary." And in 40 years, the schools will be torn down to make way for new schools, so what's the difference? Quick, name three people listed on the plaque at Hancock Middle-Senior-Sophomore-Junior-And-There-May-Be-Some-Others High School. Its plaque could list Crosby, Stills and Nash for all I know.

It doesn't even help if you get the whole school named after you. I bet there are entire generations of kids today who think they went to E. Russell Stover Middle School.

I suppose there might be some historians who would care that Phineas Beede voted to approve Ye Olde Publik School House back in the times of the Great Rutabaga Famine of ought six, but to anyone else, does it matter?

Both Forrest and Brightman are in the delicate position of caring while pretending not to care.

Brightman: "I'm not going to get bitchy about this."

Forrest: "I'm not going to lose any sleep over it."

Oh, please. Get bitchy. Lose sleep. We want entertainment here. And what better use of the board's time than to discuss, at length, plaque-naming policy.

I always wondered why the teachers names aren't on the buildings. They're the ones who do all the work. All you have to do to get your name on a plaque is open your mouth and say "yes." In the grand scheme of things, that's a lot less effort than pouring concrete or removing crayons from children's noses.

Personally, I think it would do a lot more good to put up plaques for projects that didn't work out. Like put up a sign with the names of the sitting commissioners where the Robinwood bypass should have been built. Put up a plaque with the names of state lawmakers where the new ballpark should have gone. Inscribe the names of city council members where the Civil War museum would have been built. Put the names of our congressional delegation near Williamsport where the C&O canal towpath hasn't been fixed.

Of course, creating honorariums where stuff hasn't gotten done in this county is going to take a whole lot more plaques than creating them for where it has. I'm not sure the nation's foundries can supply enough brass.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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