High school name process is beginning

Friday, March 19, 2010

With plans for Charles County's newest high school moving forward, school officials have begun the name game.

But some question whether the seventh high school should be named after a person as school system policy suggests.

Charles County Public Schools spokeswoman Katie O'Malley-Simpson told board members March 9 that, considering the state Board of Public Works has approved the new high school, slated to open in 2013, the board should begin the naming process since it takes three months to complete.

For the latest two schools that were built — Theodore G. Davis Middle School in 2007 and Mary B. Neal Elementary School in 2008 — the board has appointed a committee of eight people each selected by a board member and the student representative.

The committee solicits names from the community and holds public hearings after names have been selected. The school board is then provided with one to three names to choose from.

Current policy states that schools should either be named after a deceased person who has made a significant impact to the community or named after a particular place.

North Point High School for Science, Technology and Industry in Waldorf, which opened in 2005, got its name because it is in the northernmost part of the county and the school board didn't believe that another school would ever be built north of the location.

Board member Pamela A. Pedersen brought up a concern from previous school naming committees where two or three names were given to the board and local families argued over whose family name deserved to be on the school.

"Two families are going to be upset and one's a winner," she said.

Pedersen suggested finding a name for a school without pitting family against family.

Pedersen also said using names can get confusing for people new to the area, using similarly sounding named schools such as John Hanson Middle School and Matthew Henson Middle School.

Board member Collins A. Bailey emphasized the importance of providing students with role models when choosing a name. He gave the example of William A. Diggs Elementary School. Diggs had an impact on the community, Bailey said.

Diggs was a lifetime resident of Charles County. He taught in Charles County public schools and was very active in speaking about African-American history. O'Malley-Simpson said Diggs co-founded the county's African-American Heritage Society and founded the African-American museum in the county.

Chairwoman Roberta S. Wise said from her experience in teaching at a high school, the name of a school and the significance behind the name is the furthest thing from a high school student's mind.

She suggested using science- or technology-related names when picking a new school name since the new high school would be focused around these areas of study with such technological advancements as a digital classroom. The digital classroom will include stadium seating and a dome that will surround students with images four times the resolution of a home high-definition television.

"Now I'm not saying we have to name the school Space Mountain," she joked.

Bailey asked if it were imperative to name the school now or if it could be done when the new school board takes seat next year.

Wise said the current board should go ahead with the process.

"We fought long and hard for this school," she said.

Assistant Superintendent for Supporting Services Charles Wineland said it was important to name the school sooner rather than later as it is likely expected by the state to have a name at the top of incoming paperwork regarding it.

Board members opted to begin the process of appointing members to the committee.


To submit a name

The public is welcome to send suggestions to the school naming committee that will choose a name for the county's newest high school to be built on Piney Church Road in Waldorf. Include background information on the name submitted and reasons why it should be selected.

Send suggestions to boardmail@ccboe.com or Charles County School Naming Committee, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646.