Thursday, May 5, 2011

"... I have been troubled by the lack of outreach and transparency ..."

An email from Montgomery County Councilmember George Leventhal to Kristin O'Keefe, May 5, 2011:

Dear Ms. O’Keefe:

Thank you for your message regarding the location of a new middle school in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster. As you already know, last week the Board of Education voted against a feasibility study for the Rosemary Hills Park location and instead voted to move forward with a study for the Rock Creek Hills Local Park in Kensington.

Normally, this matter would not come before the County Council until next spring when we will take up the capital budget. However, last week during a meeting of the Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee, of which I am a member, the Committee unanimously expressed concern with the site selection process and conveyed an interest in taking up the matter sooner. The PHED committee has jurisdiction over the Parks system and the Education committee has jurisdiction over Montgomery County Public Schools, so it’s possible there will be a joint meeting to discuss this site selection process in detail.

The cluster is clearly in need of a new middle school, but I have been troubled by the lack of outreach and transparency in the process. I share your frustration that the Rock Creek Hills site was advanced by the Board of Education without a single community meeting. Rosemary Hills was given little notice of the site selection decision and Rock Creeks Hills was given even less. The rush to build a new middle school should not supersede the community’s right to be properly informed and provide input.

I am sympathetic to community concerns about replacing a longstanding park with a school and the lack of support from the Parks system for both sites is highly significant, in my judgment. Parks and schools are both valid public goods, but more caution needs to be exerted before we start replacing our park land with schools.

I will continue to follow this matter closely and I appreciate having the benefit of your views on this issue.

Best regards,
George Leventhal
Montgomery County Councilmember

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