New school gets new name

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An artistic rendering of the new elementary school to be built in Prospect. The Region 16 Board of Education has voted to name the school Chatfield Elementary School after Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield. –CONTRIBUTED
An artistic rendering of the new elementary school to be built in Prospect. The Region 16 Board of Education has voted to name the school Chatfield Elementary School after Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield. –CONTRIBUTED

PROSPECT — Thus far the new prekindergarten-through-fifth-grade school to be built in Prospect has been simply referred to by its street address — 75 New Haven Road. The school now has a new, familiar name.

During a special meeting Wednesday night, the Board of Education voted to name the school Chatfield Elementary School after Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield.

“It’s a great, great honor for me and my family,” Chatfield said.

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.

Chatfield Elementary School was chosen as the school’s name following a process developed by Superintendent of Schools Tim James. A school naming committee was formed and sorted through suggestions from the Prospect and Beacon Falls communities.

Algonquin School Principal Rima McGeehan, who led the naming committee, told the board 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 said.

Through a secret ballot, the naming committee provided three names to the board. Along with Chatfield Elementary School, the committee’s suggestions were Hilltop Elementary School and White Oak Elementary School.

The board held its own secret ballot after making their own suggestions during the meeting to produce two more names. The board also came up with Chatfield Elementary School. The other name was Great Oak Elementary School. A final secret ballot was held to select a name from the four finalists — Chatfield Elementary School, Hilltop Elementary School, Great Oak Elementary School and White Oak Elementary School. After the ballots were counted Chatfield Elementary School came out on top with four out of eight votes.

Chatfield has been a fixture in the community for decades. He has served as mayor for 36 years and has been involved in the Prospect Volunteer Fire Department for 48 years. He was inducted into the Connecticut State Firefighters Association Hall of Fame last year.

Robert Chatfield
Robert Chatfield

The news that the school was named after him came as a total surprise, said Chatfield, who found out about it on Thursday afternoon.

Chatfield said he called his office to check in and was on the phone with his secretary, Anne Fortier, when she let out a scream. She had just received the email sent from the district announcing the school’s name and read it to Chatfield.

“I got very emotional. I said, ‘Can you say that again,” Chatfield said.

After taking a moment to compose himself, Chatfield said he called back his office and spoke with a school board member on a conference call to confirm the name. Chatfield said he immediately called his family and friends to share the news.

Chatfield thanked the board, the naming committee, his family, the community and all the town employees past and present.

Construction of the school is expected to begin in the spring and open for the 2014-15 school year.

Chatfield said he’s looking forward to when the school opens not only because it will bear his name, but his grandson will be attending the school as well.

“I’m still letting this sink in,” Chatfield said. “I’m truly honored.”