Board faces backlash over naming of elementary school
Despite public criticism at Tuesday’s Western Placer Unified School District board meeting, board members stuck by their decision to name a new elementary school after Superintendent Scott Leaman.
The decision to name the new school after Leaman was made at a special meeting July 3. The board held a public hearing Tuesday night regarding the school’s naming and unanimously confirmed its decision. All six individuals who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting were critical of the board’s decision.
Kelly Enders-Tharp, whose son’s name, Sawyer Rummelhart, was suggested scores of times as the school district solicited ideas for naming the new school, didn’t like the process the board took to make the decision. Sawyer Rummelhart died Feb. 19, 2016.
“More than 100 people suggested naming the school after my son but I never thought it would be named after him,” Enders-Tharp said. “But I thought people who made suggestions would be notified and I didn’t think a decision would be made July 3. I feel like the public needs to be educated on the process.”
“I feel like transparency, which is really important to me, is a must and you kind of failed on this one,” Enders-Tharp added. “It looks a little like nepotism. It doesn’t sit right with me. This has nothing to do with my choice not being (selected) but about allowing the public to be part of the process and holding the board accountable. This seems kind of backdoor to me.”
Karen Roberts, a former school board member, said the July 3 vote should not count.
“The new school should not be named after any teacher or administrator who is currently employed,” Roberts said. “I think Fowler would be a great name. The naming should be focused on our community and the people who live here.”
Michael Roberts, a Lincoln Planning Commission member, said many names historic to Lincoln would be more appropriate.
“The name should come from the voters themselves,” Roberts said, “because ultimately they pay the bill.”
Auburn resident Dick Fowler, whose great-uncle was James E. Fowler, the namesake for Lincoln’s American Legion Post No. 264, asked the board to consider local historic figures for future school names.
“The Fowler family has been here for more than 150 years,” Fowler said. “My grandfather’s brother enlisted in the U.S. Army and was shipped off to France. He is the only Lincolnite to die in World War I. The American Legion Post is named after him. He is buried in Lincoln and is truly a Lincoln hero.”
School board members were quick to defend their action and Leaman.
Board member Kris Wyatt, a former educator in the district, said Leaman deserved to have the elementary school named after him.
“I’ve been in this district a very long time and served under seven superintendents,” Wyatt said. “I think 25 years of dedication to the district says a lot. He is the longest serving superintendent in Placer County.”
Paul Carras, school board chairman, said the general public “doesn’t know the district was in such disarray before Scott got here.”
“Under his leadership, we have a stable plan for building into the future,” Carras said.
Board member Paul Long said Leaman rescued the district from bankruptcy.
Leaman said he was truly honored by the board’s decision and there are more schools to name.
“I take to heart all of the comments made tonight and I thank the board for their support,” Leaman said. “I’m a very different person than the one who arrived here. The district is my home and it’s seen me through a lot. I’ve seen my share of tragedies in 25 years.”
Naming new high school
Later in the meeting, Leaman asked the board to give their top two suggestions for naming the new high school. A variation on Charles Lincoln Wilson High School was suggested the most among the board. Wilson was the Sacramento Valley Railroad president and is widely credited with mapping out the town site.
“At some point, we have to rank and order these suggestions,” Leaman said. “I will being these back to the next board meeting (Aug. 21) and will post on the district website.”
School resource officer discussion
Leaman said he is in negotiations with the city of Lincoln and the Placer County Sheriff’s Office about hiring a school resource officer.
“The challenge is the cost,” Leaman said. “Last year, we paid $130,000 for a school resource officer four days per week.”
Carras said the Western Placer Unified School District pays more for a school resource officer than “any other district around.”
“It’s a safety issue,” Carras said. “What if something happens on the day he’s not there? The Sheriff’s Office contracts with 11 other schools for less cost. We’re paying $30,000 more for one day less. That’s not the safety net we are looking for.”
Leaman said “if push comes to shove, we can contract with the city month-to-month.”