It was with great surprise and dismay that I learned the Board of Education had voted to name the region’s new elementary school “Chatfield Elementary School.”
Many of Prospect’s residents recognize that Mayor Chatfield has had a tremendous impact on the Town of Prospect during his more than three decades of tenure as mayor, and acknowledge his support for this particular new elementary school since the beginning. I, too, believe that Mayor Chatfield should be honored for his service to the Town of Prospect in a fitting manner; one which represents his commitment to the town of Prospect and its residents of all ages.
Nevertheless, I do not support the naming of this new school in honor of Bob Chatfield or any other individual for several reasons.
Though it will be located in Prospect, the new elementary school will be a regional school, owned by both Beacon Falls and Prospect. Our two towns are partners; it is improper and an affront to name a regional school after any one prominent person in either town. It would be much more appropriate for either town to name a town building or park which that town solely and wholly owns after one of its own esteemed residents.
All of the region’s schools have names that are generic, not individual-specific. Historically, the Region 16 Board of Education has repeatedly declined to associate any individual’s name with any of the region’s schools in whole or in part.
When Region 16 was first established in 1969, I believe great care was taken to select a name that was “neutral” to both towns — for good reason. During the naming process for Woodland, it was specifically stated that no proper names would be considered. I, along with many others, expected that the same process would be used to name this new elementary school. The naming of Woodland set a precedent, and that guideline should also have been applied with this new school.
The additional names that have been proposed for our new school — White Oak, Hilltop, Great Oak, Rockridge, Ledgewood, Oakwood or even Prospect or Algonquin/Community — are all generic, attractive, and suitable, not offensive to either town.
I remember very well the acrimonious 1990s, before we successfully passed the referendum for our regional high school, when the talk of dissolving the Region 16 school district was prevalent. I, along with many others, testified before the Connecticut General Assembly, attended numerous meetings and spent many days and nights discussing ways we could heal and improve our regional relationship.
Over the past decade, the towns of Beacon Falls and Prospect have succeeded in achieving a level of unity, stability and cohesiveness as partners in education that must be respected, protected and preserved, not jeopardized. It is my hope and expectation that the Board of Education members will exercise great care and sensitivity in selecting the name for this new regional elementary school. I urge them to bestow upon this new school, a name that both towns will embrace — without the risk of provoking any hard feelings to be harbored by either partner town into our future as a regional school district.
Theresa C. Graveline