11/02/10 — Board debates policy on naming

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Board debates policy on naming

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 2, 2010 1:46 PM

Wayne County Board of Education voted to name three high school gyms after former coaches, then put a moratorium on the practice until a more substantive policy could be enacted for the district.

Also during Monday night's meeting, the board honored departing member Dave Thomas, who is retiring after four years. Chris West ran unopposed for the District 1 seat that serves the northern end of the county.

The naming of athletic facilities was added to the meeting's agenda, with the names Luke Vail and Charles Davis mentioned from Charles B. Aycock High, Roy Whitfield from Spring Creek and Bill Garner from Eastern Wayne high schools.

Typically, board member George Moye said, high school gymnasiums have not been named for coaches or previous employees in the school system.

"We don't have a policy in place on previous employees," board member Eddie Radford said.

Board Chairman Rick Pridgen made the motion to open discussion into the matter.

Board member John Grantham took exception to the proposal.

"We had a policy before where we wouldn't name (them) after people," he said. " I don't think we ought to be able to name facilities after people. We have been criticized for doing this in the past. We had as many people that didn't want it named after them as did. I would just prefer we don't do that."

Vice Chairman Thelma Smith cited the example of Norvell Lee, a former coach at Goldsboro High School for whom the gymnasium there was named two years ago.

"This was a community request and was a fraternal request," she said. "This didn't just come from the board. I believe when the community gets involved like that, we need to listen.

"If there's a policy and we need to stick to the policy, that's one thing. But if the community is behind it, I don't see how we can refuse."

Veteran board member Moye said he does not recall an existing policy about naming a building after an individual, while newest board member Len Henderson agreed with Radford that guidelines are needed.

"I do think we need to establish some criteria for this," Henderson said.

When put to a vote, four members favored it, while Grantham opposed it. Pridgen and Henderson abstained, which counted as affirmatives.

Then Pridgen asked the board's attorney, Jack Edwards, whether a motion was needed to enact a new policy. Edwards said it required a motion or consensus of the board.

"Do we have a consensus that the majority of people at the table would like to see us have a policy proposal at our next meeting?" Pridgen asked.

"I would like to make a motion that we declare a moratorium on naming a facility after employees until we have a policy," Moye said.

Henderson asked for clarification, questioning whether the moratorium goes into effect until a policy is in place.

"The intent is so that we do not approve anyone else until we get a policy," Moye replied. "These four (nominations) are already set in stone."

Pridgen suggested a policy be produced by the district's administration and brought back to the board for a vote.

Departing member Thomas, a former coach and director of athletics at the central office, received a plaque for his service to the board and expressed appreciation to his wife and family, as well as those in the district he served since 2006.

Then he sent out a message to students in the county, to realize the value of academic pursuits.

"Thirty-five percent of our students are involved in sports, and athletics are very important," he said. "But I would emphasize -- attack academics just like you would Friday night football."

After his remarks, the 73-year-old ardent East Carolina University fan removed his purple suit coat and did several one-armed push-ups.

His fellow board members said they would certainly miss his personality and praised his leadership on the board.

"I truly believe your heart is with children," said Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent. "Athletics is high on your list but you always qualify that by saying that academics is first."