by Candy Waylock / The Milton Herald
October 11, 2011
MILTON, Ga. -- It appears unrest over the recent high school redistricting in the city of Milton has spilled over into the naming of the new school, as tempers once again flared over the "process." The new school is currently under construction at Bethany Bend and Cogburn Road in Milton and is on schedule to open Aug. 1, 2012.
A naming committee composed of two dozen residents has narrowed down the list of names to two choices – Cambridge High School or Providence High School. However, some residents said the process should have included a vote by the entire community, not this small group of people.
In an interview on WSB-TV last week, White Columns resident Paul Nickel said he believes every resident should have a vote on the name of the new school.
"You have two names, and if those two names are ultimately selected, then that's fine. But let's have a public vote," he said.
Efforts to contact Nickel for further comment were unsuccessful.
Sources said last week Nickel got into a public altercation with other residents over the naming process, which led to the Milton Police Department getting involved.
A Milton official confirmed police arrived on scene after receiving a call on Oct. 5, but charges were not filed.
"I can confirm that Milton police were called to White Columns [Oct. 5] and the officer on scene confirmed it was a dispute over the naming of the new high school," said Jason Wright, the city of Milton's communications director. "No report [was] written, because no charges were filed. Apparently cooler heads prevailed and the parties separated."It appears only verbal assaults were hurled by the parties involved, but no physical contact was made.
Ed Spurka, the principal of the new school, said every effort was made to involve as many members of the community as possible in the naming of the new school. Fulton School Board policy mandates at least 10 people be on the naming committee; however Spurka upped that number to nearly two dozen for this search.
"I wanted to have as much input as possible," said Spurka, who was named principal of the new school last year. "I went to as many neighborhoods that [fed into the new school] and looked for representation on the naming committee."
Spurka said he didn't turn away any parents who asked to be on the committee, and ultimately ended up with 16 parents, five students and several "non-voting" participants such as city council and historical society members.
When asked, he said Nickel was not on the naming committee, nor did he express an interest in being on the committee.
The naming committee met two times; once to brainstorm a list of potential names, and again to discuss the feedback they received on the names and vote for their top choices. While board policy allows the committees to send in up to three names for consideration, that is not a mandate.
Board member Katie Reeves, who represents the Milton community, said it's not unusual to only have only two names submitted for recommendation. Alpharetta and Northview high schools both had only two choices, and Johns Creek was the overwhelming favorite for that school name.
After the first brainstorm session, a list of 33 names was presented to the community for feedback. The list ranged from the obvious (Bethany Bend, North Fulton, North Milton) to the nostalgic (Crestwood, Freedom) and the random (Cooper Sandy, Double Branch).
At the second meeting, armed with "sticky dots," committee members voted for their favorite names, with Cambridge receiving 13 votes and Providence receiving 10. Surprisingly, said Spurka, Bethany Bend and Milton North – or any option with the word Milton – received no votes from the committee.
Reeves said both choices will be presented to the board at this week's board meeting, then voted on at the November meeting.
Spurka said once the name is finalized, he will be able to work on setting up the school's PTA and reaching out to the students who will help select the school's mascot and colors.
The new principal recognizes that the naming of a new school can be an emotional issue for many, so he is not surprised by the reaction. Spurka said his only charge was to follow the board policy on how the process would be done. The policy has been in place for nearly 20 years, during which time five new high schools and more than 20 elementary and middle schools have been named using this procedure.
"Not everyone is going to agree on one name," said Spurka. "There is always going to be differences of opinion around the dinner table and at the grocery store. I know some people wanted a vote from every household, but that is not the board policy, and I have to respect the policy."