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Johnson City school board OKs policy for naming schools, facilities after people

August 2nd, 2011 9:59 am by Gary B. Gray

The Johnson City Board of Education approved revisions to a policy Monday that gives members the leeway to christen schools and facilities with the names of specific people, such as former athletic standouts and coaches, as well as financial contributors.
In a 5-2 vote, the board approved the revised naming policy that specifies more clearly how new schools and facilities can gain their identity. Board Secretary Sheila Cox and board member Tom Hager opposed the move, as they did at the school board’s previous meeting June 6. Chairwoman Kathy Hall, Vice Chairman Richard Manahan and members Tim Belisle, Jenny Brock and Lottie Ryans voted in favor of the new freedoms granted by the revamped policy.
Additional wording in the revised policy requires facilities on school properties to be referenced by the school’s name unless two-thirds, or at least five of the seven members, vote in favor of specifically naming a facility.
The second addition can be acted upon once the first step is taken. The next step allows the board to vote on recommended names. Naming a specific school or facility after an individual, for example, also would require two-thirds approval.
“I just think you shouldn’t name them after people, period,” Hager said after Monday’s meeting. “We’ve had great teachers here. We don’t have any buildings named after them.”
Cox said she felt comfortable the way the policy read before the additions.
“What we had in place already was sufficient,” she said. “Our purpose is to educate children. We’re not in the business of naming buildings.”
Director of Schools Richard Bales is responsible for soliciting suggestions for names from staff, students, the community and other “interested parties.” Bales is responsible for preparing a procedure for approval, including a timetable for the naming process.
Generally, board members have been guided by a policy that requires them to name schools after the geographic section it serves. That policy remains in place. The existing policy also states that schools “should” be named before construction begins and that the name “should” be easily identifiable with the school and “should” not be in conflict with other names in the system. Existing policy also spells out that the name “should” have significance for the students that attend that school.
Does “should” mean “must?” From this point forward, semantics only become a concern if the Board of Education votes to fall back on existing policy.
The policy also says names of certain people “shall be” on the building plaque of each facility to recognize contributors, including the superintendent, principal, contractor, architect, members of the board who initiated the project, the city manager and members of the Johnson City Commission “that funded the project.”
Meanwhile, it’s been two months since the Johnson City School System received a letter from an attorney representing Duquesne University asking that Science Hill High School cease and desist from using the university’s logo.
It appears negotiations are under way that would allow the high school to continue to use the logo in particular locations and under certain circumstances. Duquesne has asked that the logo be removed from Kermit Tipton Stadium before the start of the school year Thursday and that no further clothing, labels, signs, brochures, schedules and the like bearing the logo be ordered and produced.
“They are working out an agreement, but I can’t give you the details,” Rose Rosario, Duquesne public information director, said Friday.
Christine Ethridge, an attorney with Pittsburgh law firm K&L Gates, which is representing the university, has not returned telephone calls.
“We’re negotiating, but nothing is set at this point, and that’s all I can say,” said Lee Patterson, Johnson City Schools’ human resources director and legal counsel.

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