Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – February 22, 2019

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – February 22, 2019

Proposed school calendar reviews are typically mundane for the Worcester County Board of Education, but that’s not the case this year. It seems to me the school system is rolling the dice and hoping for the best on the weather front for the next school year.

If all goes well and there are no weather closure days, school will start on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019 and end on Monday, June 15, 2020. The holiday break will be Dec. 23-Jan. 3, 2019, and a new and expanded spring break is planned for April 6-13, 2020. This calendar is a departure from the norm for Worcester schools where spring breaks are typically short and three weather closure days are built into the school calendar.

It’s a risky decision in my opinion to not account for any school closures, and school officials seem to acknowledge that fact.  “Say we have a closure on Feb. 10,” said Carrie Sterrs, the school system’s coordinator of public relations and special programs. “That would mean we automatically shift the end of our school year to June 16. So for every day that we are closed throughout that school year we will keep going until we hit that June 22 hard end. Now say we get hit with massive amounts of snow and we’re closed for 10 days. Once we got past these five days, we will then need to make further modifications within our calendar.”

Although it’s rare for Worcester schools to be closed five days in a school year, it would be wrong for schools to be open until June 22 under any circumstances. If that were to happen, I would anticipate a lot of cries for “Let Summer Be Summer,” the familiar marketing message used to advocate for a post-Labor Day school start.

Social media is a toxic place when it comes to many topics, especially school closings for weather. Since everyone has an opinion on these decisions, I will offer mine.

Schools should not have been closed Wednesday. That’s clear today, but only a result of hindsight. If I were making the call for Wednesday, understanding what was predicted Tuesday night, I would have closed schools as well. I may not have closed them so early on Tuesday evening, but I think it was the right decision. Snow, accumulating about one to three inches, was forecasted to begin around school start time on Wednesday. That would have made for a tricky commute. It’s just not worth the risk.

Nonetheless, the decision to close schools did look silly by 10 a.m. Wednesday when there was nothing but rain outside my window. It’s still better to be safe than sorry.

A rosy picture was certainly painted this week in the Ocean City crime report. Highlights of the Ocean City Police Department report include a 14-percent reduction in serious crime in 2018, bringing it to a 28-year low. Serious crime has declined significantly for five straight years.

“Any time you talk about crime numbers being reduced by double digits, that is significant,” Chief Ross Buzzuro said. “What that means is there are a whole lot less victims of crimes. We’re talking in the hundreds in this last year alone. We’re talking about crime levels lower than they have ever been in modern history and we’re very proud of that.”

The OCPD should be proud of this fact and there’s no disputing the fact Ocean City does appear to be on the downward trend on the crime front. For the last couple years, we have remarked in our newsroom how even the month of June has been tamer in recent years. Of course, it’s worth remembering June is always the month with the most arrests and criminal activity is high as a result of the demographics changing in the resort. The severity of the recorded crimes has been noticeably down, however.

Despite the high marks documented in the annual report, former Ocean City Councilman Joe Hall, who unsuccessful ran for mayor this past November, pointed out some valid concerns with the report on this newspaper’s Facebook page.

“Unfortunately this report is flawed. As someone who served on police commission for few years. It’s common knowledge that the crime rates is manageable by simply how one registers a crime or call for service,” Hall wrote. “Also with the decriminalization of open alcohol container municipal laws and statewide weed laws all the arrests previously made with higher repercussions. Now are simple tickets. Which are why calls for service are higher. Yet arrests are down. Simple what police used to make arrests for now they give ticket an the added infractions that would be stimulated by the arrest. Go to way side. Im sorry. Lived here 45 plus years. Town is as it always has been. Adrenaline fueled tourist destination with mixed of guests. Including our far share of disrespectful law breaker. I give my thanks to anyone putting on a uniform to protect us. I dont believe the job has gotten easier for you. God bless with love all that wear blue. Your valued.”

Hall is right to a degree that crime reporting has changed and that moving forward comparing the data from previous years is no longer an apples-to-apples relationship. However, I do think the serious crime reporting still is important and the overall downward trend in crime deserves attention.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.