There is only one school facility in Columbia County named after an individual: Blanchard Stadium at Evans High School bears the name of the late John Pierce Blanchard, who served three decades as superintendent of schools.
Ironically, it was Blanchard himself who instituted the policy that prohibits naming schools after people.
Naming parts of the schools - such as stadiums or libraries - is already allowed. Theres no need to change the school system policy, then, to name the baseball field at Greenbrier High School after legendary coach Terry Holder. But its a good idea for School Board members so set criteria for how names are chosen to permanently adorn public facilities.
We like to name stuff after people. Politicians like to name things after other politicians. In Columbia County, for example, we have Ray Owens Road, named for the former state legislator; Jake Pollard High-way, named for the father-and-son clerks of court; and the late Sheriff Edward Tanker-sleys name adorns a bridge. And, of course, the late Strom Thurmonds name is on Clarks Hill Lake.
Oh, wait. Stroms still alive. And thats an important point. State Sen. Joey Brush has tried in vain to pass a law that would prohibit naming public property after anyone who is still alive. My colleagues downtown used to defend that philosophy, but they caved in on the Thurmond Lake issue because then-editorial page editor Phil Kent once worked for Strom.
After South Carolina opened the floodgates with Lake Thurmond, local Georgia politicians slapped Rep. Mike Padgetts name on a highway and tried to put state Rep. Jack Connells on another. (The Department of Transpor-tation originally wanted to name River Watch Parkway after Connell. He wisely declined after public outcry.)
The issue of naming school facilities came up because of the Holder request from the Greenbrier High Athletic Booster Club, but other ideas have popped up, too, including naming the new Grovetown middle school after Mayor Dennis Trudeau.
So, School Superintendent Tommy Price is putting together a policy for trustees to consider. This procedure needs to be comprehensive, a deserving honor that is heartfelt countywide. Once you start naming things, you will have a lot of requests from various individuals, Price says.
And thats when the floodgates really open. Every year, state legislators get dozens of requests for honors of various people and groups. Most are rewarded with a glowing resolution, and a select few get something named after them.
For politicians, no money changes hands (at least, not above the table). But in corporate America, naming honors are for sale. Thats why, for example, Tim Shelnuts name is on a building at Augusta Prep. The former owner of The Columbia County News-Times donated lots of money to the private school, so they named a building after him.
Here, then, is a question: Among the new criteria for granting names to school facilities, should money be a factor? In other words, for a price, should we get the Club Car Library at Martinez Elementary, or the John Deere Agricultural Building at Harlem High?
I say yes. Set a minimum amount and a priority scale, with the highest price on entire schools - Im thinking $1 million, minimum - and lesser amounts for buildings or fields. Heck, sell sponsorships on desks for $25.
And dont give me that commercialism malarkey. You cant walk the halls of a high school without bumping into a Coke machine, or seeing banners advertising Papa Johns Pizza Night. Commercialism is here to stay.
Coincidentally, the timing of this debate comes as members of the countys Library Board actively pursue donations to enhance the new Evans library, with naming honors as part of the lure.
In fact, the son of the man who served as Columbia County school superintendent before Blanchard is expected to make a big contribution for that new library, and could have a wing of the facility named in his fathers honor.
But get this: This same philanthropist made a similar large contribution to Columbia County schools more than a decade ago. That endowment now provides substantial college scholarships for as many as 20 Columbia County public school graduates every year.
Dont know his name? Maybe its because the school system hasnt named anything after him.
(Barry L. Paschal is opinions editor of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barrypaschal@ yahoo.com.)
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