Board of Education rescinds new school name

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An artistic rendering of the new elementary school to be built in Prospect. –CONTRIBUTED
An artistic rendering of the new elementary school to be built in Prospect. –CONTRIBUTED

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name for the new prekindergarten-through-fifth-grade school to be built in Prospect, the Region 16 Board of Education rescinded the name due to a procedural error.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The board rescinded the name following an executive session at a special meeting Monday night at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls.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.

3 COMMENTS

  1. The new Regional school building in Prospect should NOT be named in honor of an incumbent politician during an election year. Also, the so-called naming committee had only one Beacon Falls resident, who could not attend due to the time of the meeting. This is a REGIONAL school, paid by taxes from both towns. Prospect residents can honor their mayor, if desired, by naming a Prospect town building after him. How would Prospect residents feel about renaming Woodland Regional High School after a Beacon Falls politician? Lastly, and most importantly, most Beacon Falls residents would take the naming of a REGIONAL school after a Prospect politician as an insult. Personally, I am angry that this is even a consideration. I urge the Prospect Mayor to set aside his personal gain and truly do the right thing for Region 16 and decline the honor.

  2. As a long standing resident of the district I am aware that these two communities have had there issues but with the building of the High School the communities started to but aside old issues and move forward for the betterment of the towns and the children. I am hopeful that this was an oversight and that it will be corrected. There is no reason this district school should be named after a person let alone a politician from one town. It is simply disrespectful to the town whom is paying for 40% of the school.I feel Mayor Chatfield should withdraw his name from consideration. There is a meeting on Apr. 1st. at Long River at 7pm. to address this issue I encourage all to come. Please do not allow something positive for the district,like a new school, turn into a negative between these communities.

  3. Why would we name a school after someone who has fought against the board of ed over and over again. Why did I have to vote so LRMS could have a leaking roof fixed and this is not held to the same process? I think this was a fixed process from the beginning and his name should be thrown out.