Aaron Close. John Rowland. Pete Gordon. Laura Smith. Eric Lyda.
Meet the members of your Morgan County Board of Education.
On July 17, 2018, the board met in Berkeley Springs and voted to transfer the 5.74 acre Greenwood School property to the Greenwood United Methodist Church.
According to board minutes of the meeting, Brad Michael spoke on behalf of the Church.
Michael said that the property will become a community center offering camps, read aloud and movie nights.
All well and good.
Except for one problem.
Sitting on the property is the Morgan County Observatory.
For twenty years, the observatory has worked closely with the Morgan County schools to provide popular programs for students to teach them about night skies, rocketry, stars and the great beyond.
For months, Kevin Boles, the president of the Morgan County Observatory Foundation, had been requesting that the school board transfer two acres of the property to the foundation.
As early as the school board’s October 18, 2016 meeting, Boles told the board that the foundation would like to purchase the property around the observatory.
Despite his repeated requests, the board decided to move forward with its plans to transfer the entire property, including the observatory, to the church without first informing Boles.
Boles didn’t learn of the transfer until the morning of July 18, 2018 – the day after the board voted to transfer the property to the church.
School superintendent Erich May called him on that morning of July 18 to tell him the news.
Boles went to meet with May at May’s office on July 20 for about an hour to discuss the matter.
May was dismissive without remorse, repeatedly telling Boles – “as far as I’m concerned, you can deal with the church, we’re done with it.”
And May continues to be dismissive without remorse.
As if — what, we are supposed to let the observatory know ahead of time that we are transferring the property to the church?
Whatever you may think of the school board and how it operates, this action to move forward with the transfer of the property to the church without consulting the Morgan County Observatory Foundation was a slap in the face not just to the observatory, but to the community that supported and benefited from the work of the observatory.
It doesn’t make sense.
Yes, the school board was right in moving to find someone to take the property.
But why not call the observatory ahead of time and donate the two acres to the observatory and then the school and the remaining 3.74 acres to the church?
At its meeting last week, the school board had no answer.
The school board’s move reinforces a public belief that the school board can do whatever they want, whenever they want, without first checking in with the community.
The transfer to the church has not been finalized.
Time to reconsider.
The redo is simple.
Two acres to the Observatory, 3.74 acres to the church.