Board revises school naming process

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Region 16 interim Superintendent of Schools Jacqueline Jacoby, center, discusses a revised procedure to name the new elementary school in Prospect during a special meeting Monday night as board Chair Priscilla Cretella, left, and board member William Fredericks, right, look over the process. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Region 16 interim Superintendent of Schools Jacqueline Jacoby, center, discusses a revised procedure to name the new elementary school in Prospect during a special meeting Monday night as board Chair Priscilla Cretella, left, and board member William Fredericks, right, look over the process. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

REGION 16 — The Region 16 Board of Education has ironed out a revised procedure to name the new prekindergarten-through-fifth-grade-school in Prospect.

The board approved the revised process Monday night during a special meeting nearly a month after rescinding its vote to name the school Chatfield Elementary School. The new process clears up the two errors officials made when voting to name the school in late February — voting with secret ballots and not holding a separate meeting after receiving the naming committee’s suggestions.

Under the new process, the naming committee will reconvene. The committee is meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Algonquin School in Prospect to discuss names for the school.

The committee must submit three suggested names to interim Superintendent of Schools Jacqueline Jacoby by April 8. All names remain on the table and new suggestions can be made by the committee and the public. Suggestions for the committee can be emailed to Rima McGeehan, Algonquin principal, at rmcgeehan@region16ct.org. McGeehan is the head of the naming committee.

Jacoby will present the committee’s three suggestions to the board at its April 10 meeting.

A special meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 29 at 7 p.m. at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls for the board to vote on a name. At the special meeting, the board will pick two more names to add to the committee’s suggestions before voting to name the school. All votes will be done openly and recorded for the record in compliance with the Freedom of Information act.

The revised process, which is only for the naming of the new school, does not prohibit the use of proper names. Chatfield Elementary School was suggested as an honor to longtime Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield. The name received the most support in an online survey, conducted by the district, seeking suggestions from the public earlier this year. Chatfield Elementary School received the most votes — four — among the school board as well, but the vote was done in a secret ballot leading to its rescission. The name was selected from four finalists, which included Hilltop Elementary, Great Oak Elementary and White Oak Elementary.

The naming of the school after a person created a controversy in the region, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospects. Residents from both towns have spoken out against using a proper name for a region school. Those concerns were expressed again Monday night.

Beacon Falls resident Jack Levine told the board his opinion is in no way a reflection on Chatfield and said if Prospect wants to honor its mayor it should do so by naming a town-owned building after him.

Levine said he’s heard the argument the new school is different because it’s in Prospect and only Prospect students will attend the school. Levine argued the school is a Region 16 school not a Prospect one.

“I respectively disagree because this is not a town-owned building,” he said.

Beacon Falls resident Joe Rodorigo said a lot of hard work went into solidifying the region over many years. When the high school was built, the towns worked to bring children together through youth sports and activities, said Rodorigo, who is chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Rodorigo felt naming the school with a proper name would be damaging to the region.

“This would be detrimental and create such a wide divide between the two towns that I think it would be almost overwhelming for the school district,” he said.