The addition of two new schools is prompting the San Carlos Elementary School District to look at changing its school naming policy, including a decision on whether to accept financial contributions for naming rights.
The proposed policy states that the name selected shall be relevant and meaningful to the school community and be considered one that will stand the test of time rather than being trendy.
Some, such as board Vice President Carol Elliott, don’t want to see naming rights go to a certain person or group just because of monetary donations.
“The value of ‘they gave us enough money’ is a value I would not support,” Elliott said. “We’re really not in a state where we need to resort to naming buildings after corporations. The exceptions piece is ambiguous and puts future boards in a tough position.”
The exception section referenced by Elliot states that in rare circumstances the board can consider if the name of an individual or group proposed for display or a facility is consistent with the values of the district. The board can also consider if the financial benefit of the naming rights is so significant it will allow the district to have new facilities, programs or improvements to those beyond what the district would have otherwise, according to a staff report.
The board will have full and sole discretion of deciding what exactly “great significance” means or what constitutes a “substantially improved facility” will be at the full and sole discretion of the board, according to the draft policy.
The drafted policy also states new names for schools should fit well with the names of other district schools and it is appropriate and permissible when selecting a name to consider the geography of a site and the names of neighborhood streets. The name should be unique and dissimilar from other names of schools and facilities in the district, the city of San Carlos or those of neighboring districts and cities, according to the report.
Prior to consideration of a second draft, further feedback will be solicited from staff, site councils and the community. This was the first of likely three readings of policy drafts. There’s no set deadline for finalizing the policy.
Superintendent Craig Baker worked with a committee of parents, a board member and district staff to write a first draft of the policy which board President Adam Rak said was driven largely by the addition of new schools to the district. The two new schools will be fourth and fifth grade classes, which are being added onto the Central and Tierra Linda middle school campuses. The new schools were the main driver for deciding to update the policy, Rak said.
The current naming policy simply states the board can name schools or buildings in recognition of individuals who have made contributions to the county, community, state, nation, world, local school or building. It also states the renaming of existing schools or major facilities shall occur only under extraordinary circumstances and after thorough study. Additionally, the board can consider naming buildings, parts of buildings or athletic fields in honor of the contributions of students, staff and community members who have been deceased for at least a year.
Like Elliott, Trustee Nicole Bergeron is apprehensive about the exception section, noting it’s hard for five people, board members, to decide a name is consistent with district values. She cited AT&T Park as an example of a building changing names as companies change names, which could pose a problem for a school.
On the other hand, Trustee Seth Rosenblatt said the idea of naming a facility after a person dishonors everyone else since it inherently excludes but that he’d make an exception for financial donations. He did say he can’t imagine corporations or individuals would buy a school’s naming rights and gyms and theaters would probably be more realistic considerations for selling naming rights.
“I’m for honoring the tens of thousands of people who help the district do what they do,” he said. “I’m on board with financial situations because it’s about the children and it’s ultimately worth the exclusion because you help the children.”
Meanwhile, Rak said he supports naming a room, gym or other facility after a teacher.
“I don’t have a problem naming something after a music teacher who did 40 years of service,” he said. “Having a separate piece to honor individuals.”
Baker said the district does recognize people from time to time with plaques and trees.
Further, the final section of the drafted policy states the renaming of existing schools or major facilities shall occur only under extraordinary circumstances and only after thorough review by the superintendent and approval of the board. In the event a name for a school or facility is selected through the exception, the board shall still retain its full authority to stipulate a time period for which that name will be associated with a facility and remove that name if it is determined to no longer meet the naming criteria the board has established through this policy or related guidelines and regulations.
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