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Columbia Missourian

Media, public opened high school debate

By Tom Warhover
September 1, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT
Tom Warhover is the Columbia Missourian's executive editor for innovation.

Dear Reader:

Over the summer, I complained about the lack of public input in the school board’s decision to put a new high school at New Haven and Range Line roads. So I should take a moment to congratulate the board and Superintendent Phyllis Chase.

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A few weeks ago, the board agreed to set up a committee to look at other offers for high school locations. This week, Dr. Chase named the panel, which appears to have critics and proponents of the original site. I trust it has people somewhere in between the poles as well. It takes courage to reverse course after a decision has been made. So kudos go to the board and the superintendent.

A little nudging helped.

More than a dozen stories have run in the Missourian since the announcement in July. I took a look through them this week. Some of the articles played the important role of holding government accountable by asking hard questions. Others recorded the volume of discontent, which rose as weeks passed. People weren’t happy with decisions made in the dark.

What’s come out of all this is more than a committee. A dialogue got started. Anyone who was interested could learn a lot in pretty short order from all the local media. The Columbia Daily Tribune, for instance, described a critic who gathered information and opinion on the Web. The site, bestsitehighschool.org , contains the expected — sign a petition — but also aggregates stories and demographic information. You didn’t have to go to the Web to find a discussion. There was talk all over town.

It doesn’t hurt either that the board got more offers of free land. Perhaps we’ll see a bidding war for this valuable piece of community property. I have land, do I hear sewerage? I have sewers, do I hear roads?

A taxpayer can dream, can’t he?

Now the newly appointed group gets its moment in the spotlight. I’ll follow its progress with interest. For all I know it will say the original site on the southeast side of town is still the best option. I’m sure it could use your ideas and opinions just as much as the school board needed to hear them.

Tom

PS: I know you may read this on a day — Saturday — when there will be one dominant subject in town, and it ain’t about education. There’s a heck of a buzz about that college football team with the tiger on its shirts. As the television commercial says, “Hope … springs.”