The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 9, 2009


Will CCHS listen after MSBA takes it off “hold”?

After two years on “hold,” the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) building project has been accepted into the pipeline for state aid – but only for improvements – not for construction of an entirely new building. The offer comes as a CCHS master-planning process is just getting underway and may sharpen debate over the relative merits of new construction versus repairs for the high school.

CCHS is one of eight schools the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) announced last week were eligible to undertake a “Feasibility Study for Repair.” A feasibility study is required for a school building project to be eligible for MSBA funding. If a project receives final MSBA approval, state aid would be in the form of partial reimbursement of the project costs.

At the moment, it is unclear whether the MSBA invitation applies to renovation and expansion, or just basic repairs. (See “State aid possible for limited CCHS building project,” page 1). On Tuesday, MSBA spokesperson Emily Mahlman said that the scope of a project that MSBA would support has not been decided, but would emerge through the Feasibility Study. However, she verified that MSBA is not currently considering support for all-new construction.

In 2005, the CCHS Feasibility Study Committee studied both repair and replacement options. They recommended replacing the high school with a new building at an estimated cost of $90 million. Their second choice was a renovation estimated at $80 million. With state aid unavailable, major campus improvements were postponed.

The following year, the MSBA Needs Survey rated the CCHS facility in “poor” condition. However, when the MSBA ended a moratorium on school building state aid in late 2007, CCHS was placed on a “hold” status. In 2009 Concord and Carlisle agreed to fund a new master plan to recommend options for upgrading the facility and the architectural firm OMR Inc., of Acton, has been hired to create the plan.

Most agree that a new school building would offer a wonderful educational environment, but at a higher cost than upgrading the existing building. Opinions differ on how much Concord and Carlisle residents will be willing to afford to spend. Will MSBA’s new offer change the dynamics? Hopefully, the school and the state will work together with an open mind to consider all the educational and economic factors as the plan develops in the coming months. ∆

Off with their talking heads

Back in the day, news junkies looked down their snoots at television news as wholly incapable of delivering a diet of news as satisfactory as that in a newspaper. If you wanted the long view, or any analysis, you had to settle in for a read. TV news was for a quick hit of headlines, weather, and sports – skin-deep coverage of a very limited number of stories.

Since then, of course, the number of outlets for television “news” around the world has grown by orders of magnitude. But we’re not better off than we were 30 years ago. In fact, one recent Sunday morning, it seemed to me we were doomed.

Hoping to learn more about the various healthcare proposals, I turned the tube to a news show to find the former heads of the two political parties spewing “facts” and talking points into inappropriate contexts, and taking any possible swipe at the other and his party. I changed the channel to one of the renowned network shows, in which an administration point man was being interviewed about his boss’s plans. The interviewer asked lots of questions intended to highlight disparities between what Obama had said during the campaign and what he was saying now, and generally pointing out what he deemed to be flaws in the administration’s tactics for addressing the public’s concerns about the so-called public option. (Mr. Interviewer wasn’t addressing the concerns; it was all about the quality of the public relations campaign.)

Wielding the remote again, I found opposing congressmen going at it about the various bills, full of recrimination about opportunities the other side had squandered. They were led in their discussion – goaded, more like – by a bombastic host. Next came a celebrity physician reporting on some healthcare system’s cost-control model in its surgical program; this doc seemed oblivious that one of the biggest problems the majority of healthcare consumers face is a shortage of primary-care physicians.

After half an hour, revolted by the demeanor of the talking heads and their inability or unwillingness to provide a thoughtful analysis, I turned the TV off. Although I had heard a number of views that morning, I had not consumed one bit of information or thoughtful reporting, and I certainly had not gained any clarity.

I turned to the newspaper, which seemed more even-handed, with its orderly flow of sentences and paragraphs. The article on healthcare that day was longish by today’s standards. It described in brief the leading bills in the House and Senate. But darned if the same two congressmen weren’t quoted, sniping. It was the same observation about the White House publicity strategy. It wasn’t anything, really, that I hadn’t heard on the Friday night news.

What’s happened to the news business? TV news, with its endless hours to fill, never rose to the challenge of providing insightful reporting and analysis. They succumbed to a presumed desire for entertaining talking heads, and settled for cycles of repetitious reportage. Except for an occasional sophisticated program, TV news has eschewed the kind of investment required for reporters and reporting to provide balance and insight. Now, with newspapers dying off and the survivors facing ever-shrinking news holes, those survivors are infected with the need to fill pages without spending money.

How does the Mosquito do it? Inquiring minds want to know.



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