Thumbs up for Pasco pride

By the Tri-City HeraldNovember 19, 2012 

Thumbs up to Pasco School Superintendent Saundra Hill for earning 2013 Superintendent of the Year honors from state school administrators.

"This award belongs to the entire Pasco community," Hill said in a remarks released by the Washington Association of School Administrators.

We couldn't agree more, so a second thumbs up to the rest of the district -- employees and students.

WASA cites increases in reading, math and writing test scores during Hill's tenure, as well as her emphasis on English-language learning and the bilingual program and developing strategies to measure student achievement and provide teachers with feedback.

The rest of the state is recognizing what most of us in the Tri-Cities already know -- Pasco is a terrific place to raise a family.

Whatever our alma maters, everyone in the Mid-Columbia is feeling a little Pasco pride today.

Reaching for the stars

Thumbs up to everyone involved in relocating the Advancement of Science Through Astronomy's research-grade telescope from Hanford's Rattlesnake Mountain into its new home near Wallula.

We criticized the Department of Energy's decision to evict this educational tool from the highest point in the Mid-Columbia, but we're delighted with the dedicated volunteers who refused to give up.

Next year, the telescope is expected to be fully operational again and available for education, research and community visits.

"This is fantastic," said AASTA's Executive Director Ken Swanson.

He's right, of course. The observatory isn't even expected to begin operations for months but this impressive instrument already is an inspiration to Mid-Columbia youth.

Rob Parchen, a Columbia Basin College machine technology student, manufactured state-of-the-art gear boxes to replace the aging ones scavenged from the top of Rattlesnake.

He's now working full time and continuing his schooling at CBC -- with AASTA's help -- to get a bachelor's in business management.

That's just the start of the great things we're confident we'll see as result of this volunteer project.

Indefensible

Thumbs down to Benton County for its decision to pay off three public defenders over a contract dispute that began two months ago.

Attorneys Scott Johnson, Dan Arnold and Kevin Holt reached an agreement with county officials after a recent daylong mediation session.

"We wanted to continue working. We made it clear that we wanted to continue with our contracts as written, but they didn't leave us with any choice," Johnson told the Herald.

So instead of paying these experience, capable attorneys to continue the work they've been doing, taxpayers will instead pay almost $48,000 to buy out the three contracts, plus other legal and mediation costs associated with the dispute.

The attorneys aren't blameless. They started down this path by first tendering, then rescinding, resignations because of some concerns with their contracts.

But when they agreed to go back to work under and complete the term of their existing contracts, the logical solution was to let them.

We don't know if egos or some slavish devotion to policy kept Benton County from exercising common sense in resolving the dispute.

But either one is unacceptable.

Self-inflicted

Thumbs down to voters in Franklin Fire District 3 for rejecting a levy that would have provided ambulance service to district residents.

The measure would have generated about $300,000 each year and help pay for the ambulance service provided by Pasco.

It probably is impossible to know exactly why the measure failed, but it's certain that an anti-Pasco backlash over the city's controversial annexation policy shoulders part of the blame.

Ironically, residents recently annexed into the city will have ambulance service while their neighbors in the so-called doughnut hole of unincorporated county land may not.

Fire officials are scrambling to find a way to serve the district. The service is clearly needed. The fire district gets about 200 to 250 medical calls each year.

"We're going to try real hard to make sure there's some type of ambulance service," Fire Commissioner Tom Hughes told the Herald. "We don't want to leave our residents in the lurch."

It's an admirable position and one we'd expect from those who dedicate their careers to protecting lives and property.

But it's not the district leaving voters in the lurch. They did that themselves.

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