Public urges no proper names for new school

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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 — As the Region 16 Board of Education moves forward with revising the process of naming the new school to be built in Prospect, a handful of people insisted the board stay away from using proper names.

“If we choose proper names for this school, I think it would be a disservice to the town of Beacon Falls. It would also be a disservice to the regional school system,” Theresa Graveline, a member of the Prospect Town Council, told the board at its March 13 meeting.

Graveline was one of four people to address the board on the matter at the meeting. The urges from the public come after the board voted to name the prekindergarten-through-fifth-grade-school Chatfield Elementary School, after longtime Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield, then subsequently rescinded that vote.

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 with four votes through another secret ballot. The name was selected from four finalists, which included Hilltop Elementary, Great Oak Elementary and White Oak Elementary.

The board rescinded its vote March 11 after it was determined the board violated Freedom of Information rules by voting in a secret ballot during open session.

Those who addressed the board last week emphasized their opinions are in no way a reflection on Chatfield and he is deserving of being honored. Rather, they said, it’s about naming a regional school after an individual from either Prospect or Beacon Falls.

“This isn’t about Prospect. It’s not about Mayor Bob. It’s about Region 16,” Jack Geary of Prospect said.

Jack Levine of Beacon Falls said he’s strongly opposed to naming a regional school after any individual and urged the board to choose one of the other name finalists.

Joe Dowdell of Beacon Falls added the region should not name buildings after people who are still alive and running for office because it gives the appearance that the region is endorsing a candidate.

Geary pointed out that when Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls was named the board at the time followed a procedure that specified no proper names would be chosen as the school’s name. He questioned why the board didn’t follow the same guideline for the new elementary school.

School board Chair Priscilla Cretella explained that a new naming policy was adopted in October and it didn’t specify against using proper names. She said the board that decided to use the no proper names guideline and the current board are two different boards and the sitting board didn’t feel the same way.

“It’s not a good answer but it’s a truthful answer,” she said.

Graveline spoke of the 1990s, a time she described as a difficult one for the region, and recalled testifying in Hartford to keep the region together. She said when Woodland was built it completed the region’s educational community and the region has been a different community since.

Graveline felt naming a school after an individual sets up the region for a destructive path.

“Do something that will unite us rather than divide us,” she told the board.

The board will hold a special meeting April 1 at 7 p.m. at Long River Middle School in Prospect to discuss revising the naming policy. No votes will be taken on the school’s name at the meeting.