REGION 16 — Nearly two weeks after approving Chatfield Elementary School as the name for the new prekindergarten-through-fifth-grade school to be built in Prospect, the Region 16 Board of Education rescinded the name due to a procedural error.
“In the interest of enabling the district to move forward without the risk of legal challenges to the process used to name the new school. The board intends to develop a revised process for naming the new school. We believe that the action is in the best interest of the school district,” board Chair Priscilla Cretella said.
The board rescinded the name following an executive session at a special meeting Monday night at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. The mistake officials made in the process of naming the school was the use of secret ballots in open session to vote on the name.
“Our error is the secret ballot,” Cretella said.
A school naming committee was formed earlier this year to take suggestions from the public and provide the board with three names. The committee finalized its three names — Chatfield Elementary School, Hilltop Elementary School and White Oak Elementary School — through a secret ballot and presented them to the board late last month. The board also voted through secret ballots to pick its recommended names. The board also suggested Chatfield Elementary School.
Chatfield Elementary School was ultimately chosen by the board through another secret ballot. The name was selected from four finalists, which included Hilltop Elementary School, Great Oak Elementary School and White Oak Elementary School.
Chatfield Elementary School, which received four out of eight votes from the board, was derived as an honor to longtime Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield.
Algonquin School Principal Rima McGeehan, who led the naming committee, told the board at the meeting last month the committee received about 70 responses to a survey for name suggestions. She said the majority of responses wanted to name the school after Chatfield.
“It was overwhelmingly the community’s number one choice,” McGeehan told the board at the time.
In the days after Chatfield Elementary School was selected, the board’s legal counsel reviewed the process and pointed out the error of using secret ballots.
The process for naming the new school was well intentioned, Cretella said Monday night. However, she said, a number of concerns have been raised by both towns about the process.
Cretella explained the board will revise the process for naming the school, but will not be starting all over. The names that were previously recommended will remain as options and the naming committee will be allowed to add suggestions, she said.
The board will set a date to hold a special meeting to discuss the process at its regular meeting Wednesday night. Cretella said the board wants to ensure all members are present for the meeting. Board member Robert Hiscox is currently out of town.
The new school is part of Region 16’s $47.5 million, three-part school building project, which includes renovations and additions to Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls and a new district office.