ST. GEORGE — The Dixie High School Flyer community came out in force Tuesday afternoon to attend the monthly meeting of the Washington County School District Board of Education where supporters of former Dixie High School coach, Don Lay gathered to petition the board to “Save the Don Lay Flyer Field.”
As a new baseball field for the high school nears completion, controversy over a name change from “Coach Don Lay Flyer Field” to just “Flyer Field” has arisen finding many, on both sides of the issue, with emotions running high.
The name change was the decision of Dixie High School Principal Sharla Campbell who said in a previous interview that she feels the best way to honor history while at the same time moving forward is to create a “Dixie legacy wall” that would give recognition to many people who have contributed to Dixie baseball throughout the years.
Campbell was not in attendance at Tuesday’s board meeting.
Vice President of the Washington County School District Board of Education, Debbra Zockoll said that while they try and leave the power of these decisions in the hands of the schools, when so many people are so passionate about an issue they, the school board, need to listen.
The regular monthly meeting addressed changes to policies, presented the proposed budget for the 2015-16 school year and gave recognition to schools, staff and students for various achievements but it was the public comment session of the meeting that drew the crowd.
The public comment portion allows up to 30 people three minutes each to address the board with their concerns providing they fill out a WCSD form 50 prior to the meeting.
Several of Lay’s supporters including his children, former students and community members stood to address the board giving heartfelt and often tearful pleas to the board to reconsider changing the name of the field.
“Keeping his name on the field doesn’t hurt anyone,” Dixie High alumnus and former student aid for Coach Lay Ilene Hacker said. “Taking it off is disrespectful.”
Lay’s legacy as a coach and teacher was touted over and again by supporters in attendance but though many recognized what Lay did for the school and the baseball program, one of the primary arguments for keeping his name attached to the field was integrity.
In 1987 when Lay was given the honor of having his name grace the baseball field, language in the letter presented to him at the May 20, 1987, Dixie High School Letterman’s Banquet signified that the designation was meant to be permanent, or “perpetual” as the letter states.
“This isn’t about how great my dad is,” Lay’s son Cole, said, “it is about integrity.”
Support in the form of a letter came in from Scott Burns an alumnus of Cedar High School in Cedar City. Cedar High School and Dixie High School shared a historic sports rivalry in the two schools’ early years and Burns stated in his letter the one constant for him during that time was Coach Lay even though he personally was never coached by Lay.
While Coach Lay supporters were the most vocal and impassioned speakers during the meeting, they were not the only viewpoint expressed.
Several supporters of the name change and Dixie High School’s administration also attended the meeting though only one spoke from the microphone.
Roger Christiansen has been working to build and complete the new field which sits just to the south of the old diamond and feels, he said, that those involved as well as many others who have contributed to Dixie baseball through the years ought to be recognized as well.
Christiansen said that when their players take the field, they play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back of the jersey and added that they are not changing the name of the field, it is a new field.
“It’s been so polarizing,” Christiansen said, “we just want to work and build a field.”
Current Dixie High School head baseball coach, Danny Ipson, attended the board meeting, he said, to support the administration of the school in their decision to name the new field, “Flyer Field,” which Ipson feels is apropos to honor the many hours and monetary contributions given by members of the school’s community to make the new field one of the best in the state.
Ipson hopes to find a resolution soon and to get the public excited about the new field, he said, and Dixie baseball which in the end is what it is all about.
“For us it’s really about baseball, it’s about the team,” Ipson said, “it’s about preparing ourselves to teach these young men how to be quality citizens and to be able to go out and teach them the game of baseball.”
After Tuesday’s meeting the fate of the name is still up in the air, Zockoll said, adding that she hopes for a resolution that can make everyone happy.
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