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Letters to the Editor - March 31

March 31, 2013

BOE can teach by example by moving downtown

To the editor:

As we read the recent articles about moving the Board of Education (BOE) offices downtown, it
seems we’re mostly reading about time and money. It will take at least a year or two longer to complete a move if the offices are moved to a downtown location. It will take millions of dollars more than if the offices are moved to the Potomac Edison property on Downsville Pike. Besides, the BOE has already
invested in the downtown to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars through the Barbara Ingram School of Fine Arts (BIFSA), so it clearly already has community interests at heart.

But, one question: Why are time and money the main values in play here?

It’s not that time and money are unimportant. The approximately $4 million gap between the cost for buying and renovating the former Allegheny Energy headquarters ($12.5 million) and the downtown costs ($16.5 million) is significant and the city needs to help the BOE address that gap. But, over the long haul of several generations — the lifespan of the new offices — won’t this amount be far less than the potential total tax revenues that would accrue from developing the Potomac Edison property as a business park? Perhaps the $50,000 cost of buying more time beyond April 5 to make the wisest decision possible might in the long run save millions.

Time and money are important, but they are not solely important. Social responsibility is important. Working for the good of the whole is important. Not ignoring the concentration of poverty and illiteracy in the city core is important. Being part of casting a vision and growing hope is important.

Education is not merely about growing, broadening and deepening our students’ minds. It is that, to be sure. But, even more, it is about creating a space in our students’ lives in which their imaginations and
desires are (in)formed to pursue and practice the truths of life. And the truth is, life is about far more than time or money, accumulation or efficiency.

If the BOE moved downtown it would embody the lesson that it’s more important to look to the welfare of all, not one’s own select group. If the BOE moved downtown, it would move physically closer to the cluster of poverty and illiteracy in the city core, closer to some of the neediest students in the county, and perhaps it could even use some of the downtown space to develop a cutting edge magnet school for the poorest of our poor. Wouldn’t it be incredible if the BOE was able, by its actions, to teach us all that the least among us deserve our very best?

If the BOE moved downtown, it could demonstrate and teach that connectedness and sharing life together across all walks of life is more important than being on an island of safety and isolation outside the city limits. If the BOE moved downtown, it could contribute directly to the peace and prosperity of the city, and help others imagine how to do the same. If the BOE moved downtown, it could teach by example that time and money are not the ruling gods of this age. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the BOE taught
instead that the values of imaging and desiring and building a great city and county are even more important?

Let’s imagine a great city that is the foundation of a great county! And let’s imagine the BOE teaching us all how to make it so by acting in the best interests of all. Wouldn’t it be truly awesome to imagine that?

The Rev. Dr. Gregg Meserole

Editor’s note:
The author of this letter is pastor of Christ’s Reformed Church, UCC, on West Franklin Street in Hagerstown.

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