2016-10-21 / Community

Not so fast with high school name change

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — As quickly as the possibility of renaming Kennebunk High School following completion of a $42.8 million renovation project was raised, the idea has been purged from the public consciousness.

At its Oct. 17 meeting, the RSU 21 Board of Directors voted unanimously to take renaming KHS off the table. A new nine-member naming committee will now focus its attention on the potential of naming parts of the school and grounds, not the institution as a whole.

“Thank goodness,” school board member Peter Fellenz of Kennebunkport said. “After the last meeting, I had visions of ‘Walmart High School,’ or something.”

Superintendent Katie Hawes had said at the Sept. 19 school board meeting that KHS might warrant a name change, since it serves students from Kennebunkport and Arundel, as well as Kennebunk.

At that meeting, the board gave Hawes authorization to form a naming committee, with one board member, Jeffrey Cole of Kennebunk, even throwing out an initial nomination, suggesting the school become Timothy B. Hussey Memorial High School.

Almost as soon as that meeting was adjourned, the public reportedly rebelled. Hawes said she received dozens of comments by phone and email, all solidly against renaming KHS.

The Oct. 17 board meeting drew an audience of about 15 — a boffo turnout by usual board standards — and, although none in the crowd spoke directly to the issue, vice chairman Maureen King assured them, “We have heard you, loud and clear.”

It also didn’t help the renaming initiative that some naming opponents pointed out an existing school policy, last revised in 2012, which specifically forbids the renaming of existing school facilities.

Although that policy was cited at the Sept. 19 meeting — raising the possibility of commercial involvement, with “naming rights or plaques acknowledging the source of the funds for the construction or renovation of such facility” — the last paragraph of that policy states, “The names of existing structures or physical spaces within the district will not be changed. Historical preservation and respect for our traditions are a key component in honoring our past.”

Hawes said only new spaces created by the high school renovation, such as the gym, cafeteria, theater, or science wing, will have naming opportunities attached to them.

The Alexander Economos Auditorium will retain its name, a memorial designation given in honor of the popular English and drama teacher who served Kennebunk High School for more than 30 years, starting in the 1950s, she said.

On Tuesday, Hawes said no commercial offers have yet come across her desk, and the generation of revenue from the sale of naming rights are, at this point, “speculative.”

After the school board voted Sept. 17 to create the naming committee, Hawes met with King and school board chairman MaryBeth Luce of Arundel. Together, they decided the naming committee would have nine members, including four school board members, four members of the public, and high school Principal Susan Cressey.

From 18 applications received, the trio nominated as the public representatives, Norm Archer and Alysson Homa of Kennebunk, Sam Hull of Arundel, and Traci Gere of Kennebunkport.

Selected to represent the school board was Mike Mosher of Kennebunk, along with Luce, King, and Cole.

That full board unanimously endorsed that slate of committee members at its Oct. 17 meeting. The first meeting of the naming committee will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 25, in Room A102 of Kennebunk Elementary School.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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