Wake school names should educate, inspire students

November 17, 2013 

Charles Bugg was everyone’s idea of what a pediatrician ought to be. The late Raleigh physician was gentle of spirit, with a soft voice and a manner that comforted children and parents alike. If a child was afraid of going to the doctor, Bugg would take care of the anxiety as well as the illness. And when one parent apologized for calling him late at night, he said, “Don’t ever hesitate to call me about a sick child.”

Bugg also helped develop a home for disabled young children.

What better tribute could there be to this great man than to have an elementary school named for him, which is what happened in Raleigh in 1964. Bugg Elementary remains a fine school.

Naming a school for someone who contributed to the life of his or her community, or was a respected school administrator, shouldn’t be done lightly. But it should be done.

And members of the Wake County school board should support the idea.

Instead, there seems to be a hesitation on the part of board members to name schools for individuals or to have the names of municipalities in school titles. That reflects a sensitivity on the part of some board members or a fear of getting criticized because of the choice of a name.

Indeed, controversy erupted over the choice of some names to such an extent that a previous edition of the board banned using people’s names at one point. The ban was lifted in 2010.

Just what’s the hazard in honoring an individual? Well, there could be pitfalls in naming a school for a living politician, for example. So the board could say it won’t do that. But naming a school for a longtime principal, for example, or a legendary teacher might be an entirely appropriate honor to bestow during a person’s lifetime. There have been civic leaders in this community who have focused much of their energy, whether as mayors or state legislators or county commissioners, on education. A school name could recognize those contributions.

Would some people get upset? Probably, because they wouldn’t like it if their candidates for a school name didn’t make the cut. But school board members ought to be able to face such a problem. A school name is, after all, typically reflective of the history of a region. It could help students learn, and it could even bolster their pride in their school.

Some argue that when a municipality is part of a school name, it’s risky because borders can change, or because all the students at the school might not be residents of a city or town. That seems a minor problem, and not much of an excuse for simply making a rule to which it would almost be certain that exceptions would be made, if a community wanted to be part of a school name.

And as with the case of Apex Friendship High, a name can reflect an historic place in a community that is representative of a time and place. In the case of Friendship, it was a place with long-term ties to the African-American community.

School board members need to stand for history, and for making the names of schools reflect that history. It’s a worthy goal, and one not to be abandoned because board members don’t want to deal with dissent.

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