School board proposes naming policy changes; Don Lay supporters object

Controversy over the naming of the new Dixie High School baseball field has prompted the school board to issue a new policy, St. George, Utah, June 10, 2015| Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – The Washington County School District Board of Education has proposed changes to its policy for naming school facilities – a move which comes in the wake of a four-month long battle with supporters of Coach Don Lay over the name of Dixie High School’s new baseball field.

Supporters of Coach Don Lay, who died in 2011, fear the policy will allow the school board members to shift responsibility to the district superintendent, who is not an elected official, and make it possible for Don Lay’s name to be removed from the field in the future.

School board members, however, say they are just trying to clarify the policy to prevent similar problems from arising.

“The intent of the policy is not, and was not, to remove (Don Lay’s) name off the field,” School Board President Laura Hesson said.

Superintendent of Schools Larry Bergeson agreed.

“I would just reiterate that, you know, it is a draft,” he said.

“If you think for one minute I would want to venture down that road after the last four months, then you don’t know me very well,” he added, referring to the fight over the name of Dixie High School’s baseball field. Rather, the idea is to free up the school board to focus on education, he said.

“They need to invest their time and resources in policies and things that contribute to student learning,” Bergeson said.

The new policy would give the power to name facilities to the superintendentIlene Hacker told the board during the public comment period at Tuesday’s Washington County School District Board meeting. Hacker is a Dixie High School graduate and was a vocal supporter of efforts to retain Don Lay’s name on the school’s baseball field.

Read more: Board votes to retain Don Lay’s name on field, not unanimously

“He wouldn’t answer to anyone. He is not an elected official,” Hacker said. “Why would you give him total control, with no questions asked?”

Hacker said she fears Don Lay’s name could be removed from the Dixie baseball field – and other named facilities are at risk, too.

The superintendent could remove Coach Walt Brooks’ name from the Dixie High football stadium or Rick Ence’s name from Pine View High’s locker room, for example. Hacker said she believes the elected school board should make those tough decisions, not an appointed superintendent.

The proposed change is a clarification of an existing policy, Hesson said, and the main difference is that under the new policy, a suggested name change will go from the school level to the superintendent rather than to the school board. The board would still be involved in the naming of a new school and designating a school’s color and mascot.

Currently, there are labs, locker rooms and even hallways that have been named in honor of individual people. This has often been done at the school level without the knowledge of the school board.

“We’re just trying to clean it up,” Hesson said, “and bring it all into one place and say, ‘This is how we will handle this.'”

 The board is willing to take comments and look at different options, Hesson said.

“We’re trying to make sure this never happens again,” board member Debbie Zockoll said. “If we have a good policy, it just makes it easier on everyone.”

Resources

  • Policy No. 5111 Naming of School Facilities can be found on the district’s Web page
  • To comment on the policy, email Kajsia Boyer at the school district office

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • NotSoFast November 11, 2015 at 8:55 am

    Who would have the authority to change the name of a school from a not political correct title to one in tune with the times?
    Use your imagination for examples. DSU to something else is an example.

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