Take a breath on Millikin discussion
To the Editor:
I am sorry to see the anger surrounding the current debate over the future of the Millikin School property.
I do not have a horse in this race, but I do have some questions:
What has changed since last year, when the Board of Education (BOE) last solicited requests for proposals for the Millikin property?
As nearly as I can ascertain, the only change has been the emergence of a possible (but by no means certain) interest in leasing the site for commercial use. Yet suddenly Mosdos (which declined even to submit a proposal last year) is in a hurry to buy the site for far less than the value of the underlying land. (Mr. Eric Silverman’s apt analysis shows $3 million to be the minimum value of the land alone if the zoning were changed back to residential.)
The BOE does have an obligation to the Mosdos students and their parents, as well as to the rest of the community. The students would be welcomed into the public schools with open arms, as would, I’m sure, those resident children who attend Ruffing, Hawken, University School, Beaumont, Communion of Saints, Hathaway Brown, Hebrew Academy, or any of the other private schools in the region. While they might be surprised, they would discover that they could and would receive a fine education in our district. (In fact, their participation might catapult it into a top spot nationally.) As to the rest of the community, the BOE has a duty to exercise good stewardship of the assets it holds on our behalf, and that includes taking better care of both the Millikin School facility and the Severance stables. But does it include a sale to Mosdos under its proposed terms?
Try this thought experiment: Suppose Hawken wanted to buy the Millikin site for a preK–3 school and offered $600,000. Knowing that the land alone is valued at $3 million or more, should the BOE sell? What if Hawken offered $1 million? Heck, they’re well-endowed, how about $2.5 million?
Meanwhile, neighborhood residents fret about increased traffic if paid commercial office staff drive to and from work at the beginning and end of each shift, yet seem unconcerned about the increased traffic that would result from the comings and goings of paid teachers, paid staff, and families and children at any operating school. In my experience, most office-based commuters soon settle into a driving routine that gets them to work just a few minutes ahead of schedule. My observation of morning school trips, however, suggests that many families run chronically late. Which group has more accidents? I wonder.
Perhaps we should all take a deep breath of fresh air and see if there isn't some more constructive way forward.