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High expectations over 1954 time capsule fall flat

A time capsule. The very idea promises intrigue-a buried treasure of sorts offering a glimpse of the past-and when it shows up unexpectedly, all the better.

So when construction workers pouring concrete for a new entrance ramp at the Elma Elementary School on Rice Road unearthed one such capsule recently, expectations in the Iroquois School District were high.

Though cutting marks from the workers' saws marred the container, it was otherwise intact and as the superintendent opened it for the first time at a School Board meeting this week, all that was missing was a drum roll.

Deftly pulling the contents from the rusty metal box onto the table, Superintendent Douglas Scofield did a perfunctory glance at the items, then looked up and admitted, "It's kind of disappointing."

The treasures that officials of some bygone administration had kept for posterity were simple if not a bit dull: a copy of a local newspaper dated Nov. 4, 1954; a worn photo of a district building; and a newsletter and a document titled: "The Comprehensive Plan of Education for The Elma, Marilla and Wales Central School District."

School Board President David Lowrey commented that many of the topics in the paper rang true to issues facing today's officials, such as promoting healthy eating, maintaining a strong athletic program, educating the handicapped and formulating sound academic programs. The school board was surprised by a line that read, "Would it be cheaper to contract students out of the district?"

Scofield noted with some satisfaction that the tax rate per thousand dollars of assessed value in 1954 was $14 to $17. Currently, it's in the $16 range. But there wasn't much else to say about the rather uninspiring and somewhat battered contents of the capsule. When asked by board members what he would do with it, Scofield's response was almost as lackluster:

"We'll add to it, then put it back."

The superintendent later said he would consider putting in class pictures of students and perhaps hand-written letters by them describing life in 2012-a decidedly more enticing find for the next construction crew or superintendent who happens upon the capsule.