Wake Ed

November 13, 2013

Wake County school board considering changing school naming policy

Some Wake County school board members say the district needs to come up with a “uniform workable process” for naming schools.

The Wake County school board may change how it goes about naming schools following controversies this year such as the flap over the Apex Friendship High name.

The school board’s facilities committee has been directed to study at today’s meeting the district’s policy for naming schools. Other agenda topics include the draft facilities utilization report and the bond process after voters approved the measure last month.

The school system generally names schools after geographic locations such as roads, streets or natural or historic features. The policy was modified in 2010 to once again allow new schools to be named after individuals.

The board’s decision in August to rename the new West Apex High to Apex Friendship High drew praise from members of the Friendship community and anger from families who expect to be assigned to the school.

At last week’s board meeting, school naming came up multiple times:

• The board adopted South Garner High as the name for one new high school.
• The board passed a resolution asking that the Wake County Board of Commissioners name the new CTE high school after Vernon Malone
• The board pulled from the agenda a vote on the naming of a new high school in Cary. The issue was sent to the facilities committee for further study.
• The board heard three options for names for M8, the new middle school that will be built on Leesville Churck and Strickland roads in Raleigh.

Betty Parker, director of real estate services, said the three options for the new northwest Raleigh middle school are Sycamore Creek, Bartram Place and North Leesville.

Parker said that Sycamore Creek was proposed because water draining from the middle school will flow into Sycamore Creek, which she called the nearest notable natural feature. She also noted that the site is in close proximity to Sycamore Creek Elementary School.

Parker said Bartram Place was proposed because it’s one of the roads that school will be accessed on. She said it will identify the location of the school.

Parker said North Leesville was proposed because the school is two miles north of Leesville Road Middle and is located in what was the Leesville community.

School board member Jim Martin raised the concern that using Sycamore Creek would result in Sycamore Creek Elementary families assuming they’d also go to the middle school.

“We need to make sure naming makes sense for what the public will understand,” Martin said.

Martin said he wanted to know if the middle school’s assignment area will be contiguous to the one for Sycamore Creek Elementary. Parker said she didn’t know but they can get back to the board with more info.

Of the three choices, Martin said North Leesville makes the least sense. He said it would create a lot of confusion to have schools with similar names so close to each other.

School board member Susan Evans asked that the M8 naming issue be taken up by the facilities committee. Evans said that all naming decisions should be taken up in that committee before going to the board table.

School board Chairman Keith Sutton said that he’ll send M8 to the facilities committee. But he said he thought the conversation in committee would be more around the process of naming schools.

School board member Kevin Hill, chair of the facilities committee, said he expects the committee discussion to be more about the naming process in general. Hill said he didn’t think they could wrap it all up in one meeting.

After passing the CTE high school resolution, school board member Tom Benton said he was glad to support that proposal. He also said he was happy they could resolve the name of the new high school in Garner.

But Benton added that he was “concerned that we don’t seem to have a uniform workable process for naming schools.”

“We need to come up with a uniform process because we’ve got 16 schools coming on board,” Benton said. “And tonight worked well – except sort of the last minute here – but we’ve had other issues.

Even tonight, we took one proposal to name off and tabled it and left one on. I would just feel a whole lot more comfortable if before we name any more schools that we work with staff to come up with a process of how we’re going to handle this.”

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The WakeEd blog is devoted to discussing and answering questions about the major issues facing the Wake County school system. WakeEd is maintained by The News & Observer's Wake schools reporter, T. Keung Hui.

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