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Another step toward 'world class' for county schools

May 22, 2008|By BOB MAGINNIS

Odds and ends from a columnist's notebook:

· Students and educators at Boonsboro High School have to be puffing out their chests a bit this week, after it was made public that Boonsboro was named one of the top 1,300 high schools in the U.S. by Newsweek magazine.

It's even sweeter because Boonsboro was one of only two county high schools to miss a similar honor bestowed in December by U.S. News & World Report magazine.

Newsweek also cited North Hagerstown High School, based on a ratio devised by Jay Mathews, a Washington Post columnist.

To figure out an individuals school's score, count up the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school in 2007 and divide it by the number of graduating seniors.

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There are those who will say that this doesn't prove that Washington County schools have become "world class." However, the school system doesn't claim that status now; its leaders say that's a goal they want to achieve.

But it would be hard to argue that, following recognition of local schools by two national news magazines, that the system isn't headed in the right direction.

The students who took those advanced classes learned a great deal and, just as important, prepared for college in a way that will save some of them significant dollars.

No, the school system hasn't reached the end of the rainbow, but to gripe that the progress that's made to date is inadequate seems unfair to those who are working so hard.

Congratulations to the students, teachers and administrators for getting the schools this far.

· This week Herald-Mail readers learned the dismaying news that Bentley's Bagels, located across Washington Street from the Washington County Circuit Courthouse, might have to move because of an impending rent hike.

Eric Muritz, who owns the business with his girlfriend, Jordan Lessig, said that his landlord is proposing a rent increase of about $470 month.

If that's true - and nobody's denying it - it makes no sense in the current economy. When money gets tight, people cut back on the things they can do without, brown-bagging it instead of going out for lunch. Does this landlord really want another empty space?

And while Bentley's might have a prime location, there is no air-conditioning, as anyone's who dined there in the warmer months knows. There's no parking lot, either.

City officials say they'll do everything in their power to make sure Bentley's finds a new home. We hope they look back at what they did for Marcel's Bakery and Restaurant at 41 S. Potomac St., where the city helped the operator purchase kitchen equipment. Or it could do what the city did for the Schmankerl Stube, where owner Charles Sekula got a city loan to develop his property.

Perhaps the city government could help Bentley's relocate to the now-vacant Delta Hosiery building, at 66-70 W.Washington St.

The city purchased the building in 1996 for $155,000, then three years later sold it to a developer for $40,000, with the understanding that it would be renovated.

But no major renovations took place and the first developer sold it to another in 2005 for $145,000 and the building was soon given an historic preservation tax credit worth $112,000.

If the city can't help an existing, established business relocate in an area full of empty spaces, perhaps its time for the City Council to look at whether the city's economic development operation is actually working - or just spinning its wheels.

· Hagerstown City Councilman Martin Brubaker's proposal to cut two cents from the city's property tax rate would only save $20 a year for the owner of a house assessed at $100,000, city finance officials said.

But Brubaker's proposal would have sent a message to present and potential city residents that taxes won't go up here every year.

Upping taxes annually, whether through a rate increase or rising assessments, must dishearten property owners who face increasing costs for energy and food and falling values for real property.

It might only be $20, but every time the consumer turns around, the cost of some product or service is going up. To prove that they're on citizens' side, council members should OK Brubaker's plan.

Bob Maginnis is Opinion Page editor of The Herald-Mail.

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