After a nearly 30-minute discussion, the Board of Education passed on first reading additional wording to an existing policy Monday that would allow the naming of schools and facilities after notable sports figures and coaches.
In the end, the seven-member board granted itself and succeeding boards — at least on first go-round — an opportunity to name schools and facilities without inclusion of the school’s name. The board also approved a policy change that would allow them to cast a separate vote to approve why it is a valid recommendation. And finally, they agreed there would be a final vote on a specific name. A two-thirds majority would be needed at each step.
The existing policy requires properties to be referenced by the school’s name, but the subject of naming the new gym on the Science Hill campus was broached last month by SHHS Athletic Director Keith Turner, who told Facilities Committee members, “As you know, the process used in naming the stadium worked out very well. I’m for naming facilities after people that are ‘well-deserved.’ ”
Kermit Tipton Stadium? Yes, the school did get some substantial financial help there, and notable sports alumnus Steve Spurrier was involved. But technically, the stadium is owned by the city, as is Freedom Hall Civic Center.
Apparently, a possibility has presented itself, and Turner may already have a short list of names. At the committee meeting, Turner referenced the Johnson City Press, saying several names had been “dropped” in the sports page.
“I believe there should be dialogue whether we can do this, and I think Mr. Turner is wanting to hear from us,” said board member Lottie Ryans.
The last sentence of the underlined and boldfaced policy states “Facilities on school properties will not be given a separate name but, will be referenced by the school’s name.”
But Ryans and board member Tim Belisle agreed the board needed an opportunity to explore naming rights and asked for the following to be added: “unless two-thirds of the board votes on the specific naming of the school.”
That vote passed 4-3, with Vice-Chairman Richard Manahan, Secretary Sheila Cox and board member Tom Hager voting against the move.
“I think you should leave it alone,” Hager said. “We’re in the business of educating, but we’re never have a teachers’ name brought up.
Manahan said he wasn’t “too excited about getting into a personality contest about who the facilities should be named after.”
Ryans reminded him that the policy would be there if someone were to come forward with a donation.
Then, after several members made clear their intent not to be blamed as using or appearing to use personal politics in their decision making process, another motion was made by Chairwoman Kathy Hall to connect additional wording onto the policy. The move came after Lee Patterson, the school system’s human resources director and legal counsel, suggested forming a committee that could screen names introduced for inclusion.
That idea was jettisoned in favor of a written caveat in the policy that would allow the board to vote on whether to consider a name at all after learning more about why they had good reason to do so. At this point, board members would (theoretically) not know for whom they might be voting but would have a clearer understanding of what the school system had to gain.
Once past that point, the board could roll out and vote on specific names attached to specific facilities.
This also was accepted by a 4-2-1 vote with Hall, Belisle, Ryans and Brock in favor of the move. Manahan passed; Cox and Hager opposed the idea.
Director of Schools Richard Bales is responsible for soliciting suggestions for names, and those ideas can come from staff, students, community members and other interested parties, according to the policy.
“I think we’ve got a real issue coming down the line here,” Manahan added.