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Jan. 9, 2011

One successful sale

by Marjorie Fuchs, Editor-in-Chief
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is known as one of the nation's best. Education Week rated the Maryland public school system the best in the country in 2009. According to these and other statistics and acclamations, we are living in the mecca of education and are benefiting from the best America can offer. Yes, MCPS provides us with an apt education but it has its fair share of problems, such as rising amounts of overcrowded classrooms and frustrating politics.

The Melvin J.
Berman Hebrew Academy recently purchased an old MCPS school in
Rockville. Courtesy of Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington
The Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy recently purchased an old MCPS school in Rockville.
In November, the Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) voted to sell the building of former Robert E. Peary High School in Rockville to the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy, which has been renting the space since 1996. Many county politicians strongly opposed the sale because of MCPS's ever-increasing enrollment rate and the continual crowding of many area classrooms; instead, they said the school should remain in MCPS care for future use. These critics question why the county sold the property for a slim $1.9 million, the amount set in the 1996 lease. Some believe that certain politicians let their personal agendas influence their decision on the matter. Despite the heavy criticism, Montgomery County made the right choice in moving past its dividing politics and upholding its end of the deal by selling the building.

Opponents of the sale highlighted the fact that MCPS, now at 144,000 students, has been struggling with rapidly growing population for some time. "We've reclaimed and reopened many closed schools. And we anticipate that by 2016, we'll have 155,000 students," BOE member Patricia O'Neill said. However, while overcrowding is an issue that needs to be dealt with, repurchasing the building is not the way to solve it. O'Neill herself added that there is no current need for the Peary High site.

Council member Phil Andrews commented that County Executive Ike Leggett might be going along with the sale as a favor for a former aide; Leggett retorted that this aide had been helping a campaign that Andrews opposes. All of this quibbling and political finger pointing is childish. The BOE made the decision to sell the building to Berman Hebrew which has been using it for over ten years likely for a variety of reasons and it is ridiculously short sighted to say that they made the wrong decision because of differing politics and the current educational buzzword "overcrowding."

As O'Neill stated, there is no present need in the county for the Peary facility. Overcrowding exists in many places across the county, but not severely enough in this Rockville neighborhood that the county saw it cost effective enough to buy the building.

Even if MCPS could repurchase Peary high school, owning an old building may prove to be costly. Dealing with the high maintenance costs would be a weighty task for a county with funds already spread too thin. Since 1996, Berman Hebrew has spent $8.2 million renovating the building to keep it up to shape. Severe budget cuts are hurting schools countywide and forcing educators to make do with what resources they have, add maintaining another school on top of that and its a recipe for further disaster.

Despite the opposition and petty he-said-she-said surrounding the decision, MCPS made the right choice in selling the old Peary building. Not only will the county benefit from the money from the transaction, but they can use it to find a better solution to overcrowding and patch up holes throughout the school system. The Rockville neighborhood home to the Peary building does not have a dire need for a new school. The county needs to work with what it has right now to find a sizable solution to overcrowding and stop nitpicking over the politics of it all.



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  • Magnet senior on January 9, 2011 at 3:12 PM
    Sorry to say, but this is a uniformly weak piece in terms of both style and argumentation. I expect better from SCO than usage errors and a grammatically inane second sentence. Interesting topic, though.
    • No one cares that you're a Magnet Senior. on January 15, 2011 at 11:42 AM
      Rude.
      • Alumnus on March 9, 2011 at 11:28 PM
        Yeah, how dare someone criticize poor writing in their school newspaper? No, we should only praise things, regardless of whether they're good or bad, lest we potentially be "rude!"

        ...Or not. Get over yourself, that was a perfectly legitimate criticism, and your comment just comes off as self-righteous nonsense.
  • Enlightening on January 18, 2011 at 1:24 PM
    I found this op ed piece enlightening. Thank you for sharing some information. I hadn't heard any of the details of this situation before - only the complaining about mcps selling its property and being overcrowded. It sure is helpful to look at the details instead of just listening to the rhetoric. Much appreciation to you for your sharing your viewpoint.

    I agree -the two posts above are rude. Where are constructive comments on the writer's point of view? If commenters oppose the sale, what is their reasoning? Why post comments about writing structure and quality, or in reaction to another's inflated ego, instead of commenting on the substance of the matter?
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