The Board of Education on Monday voted unanimously in favor a policy that will allow the elected body to name district buildings and grounds after individuals or groups.
Created in the wake of a formal agreement between the town and New Canaan Athletic Foundation that’s designed to ensure the long-term viability of the new and re-turfed youth sports fields and track at the high school, the policy calls for the Board to solicit community input, select names and approve changes.
“Facility naming shall be considered in cases when it has been recommended to honor a person or organization providing exemplary services or contributions to the New Canaan Public Schools,” according to the policy (which can be found in full here).
Board members Maria Naughton, Penny Rashin, Dionna Carlson, Brendan Hayes, Tom Cronin and Julie Mackle Reeves voted 6-0 to adopt it after a second read and minor changes. Board members Sheri West, Katrina Parkhill and Jennifer Richardson were absent.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said the policy came forward in conjunction with the NCAF agreement and is designed to establish a process to follow in the event that someone makes a donation that warrants naming rights.
“It’s a very big deal to name something after someone,” he said “There should be a relatively high bar, I think, going into something like this, because it’s a significant honor.”
The Board spent time discussing the proposed language in the policy and ultimately decided to do away with a clause specifying that the honored individual or organization must have “an affiliation” with the district.
“I can envision a scenario where there is someone in the community that wants to make a significant donation and doesn’t have any children or grandchildren, or it’s just a community member that may want to make a donation, and the ‘affiliation’ wording, depending on the Board that you have, they may get a bit stuck on that,” Carlson said.
She asked whether the wording had been included because the district does not allow corporate sponsorship of facilities.
Luizzi said, “I think that’s a part of it.”
“Also, you could have historical figures or others that you may want to name things after that maybe are not connected at all with the New Canaan Public Schools,” he said.
Luizzi noted that the policy lays out general criteria and that the Board would be voting on a case-by-case basis.
“As problems arise, we can always adjust and adapt,” he said.
Cronin noted that the Board is “not restricted” by the policy and could even change it prior to voting on a specific naming proposal.
Rashin asked whether the Board may want to limit the number of years that naming rights would hold for a facility, such as 30 years, as other educational institutions have done.
Ultimately, the Board decided to consider that matter at a later date.
“If we limit the time, we are suggesting we are doing it for purposes of raising money, and that should not really be the reason we are doing it, necessarily,” Hayes said. “And we also retain the ability to rename facilities.”