Request to rename field sparks broader dialog

NAUGATUCK — A proposal to rename a field at Naugatuck High School after a former soccer coach has spawned a discussion on how the board will deal with such a request moving forward.

At the Feb. 11 Board of Education meeting, Naugatuck High School Dean of Students and former Athletic Director Tom Pompei proposed renaming the multi-purpose turf field, which is currently called Veterans Field, Veterans Field in the Arthur V. Nunes Soccer Complex.

The name change would be to honor Nunes, who coached boys soccer at the school for the past 21 years and won numerous titles. Nunes retired following the fall season.

The board tabled action on the proposal at the time to gather more information. It took up the discussion again Feb. 25 during a special meeting, and members voiced concern over changing the name of the field.

“We are opening ourselves up to some Naugatuck historian coming in and saying ‘if you are going to honor so-and-so, here’s this coach from back in the days before the flood that was equally successful in badminton,’” board member Jason Celozzi said.

Board member James Scully pointed out that the wings of the high school, which used to be named after significant historical figures in the borough, are now named the North, South, East, and West wings.

“We just took the names away from our building here that go with history,” Scully said. “This is historical for the town and we took those names away.”

Board member David Heller pointed out there is precedent for naming amenities in the district, such as the Sullivan Pool at the high school.

“Obviously you want to cherish the tradition and some of the people that have given back to the town and the borough and the educational system,” Heller said.

The board made no formal motion last week, but came to the consensus that instead of renaming facilities it would be more comfortable with placing a plaque or statue to honor a person moving forward.

Celozzi recommended the board establish guidelines for honoring someone in order to set a precedent for future boards.

“We have to be really conscientious of how we are doing this, what we are doing and whether or not it is repeatable and measurable,” Celozzi said.

The board decided to ask Pompei to come back with a request, such as a plaque, to honor Nunes rather than renaming the field. The board is expected to discuss the issue further at its March 10 meeting.