June 13th, 2007

What's in a School Name? Maybe Money, Maybe Public Service; Policy's in the Works

By Jo Collins Mathis
The Ann Arbor News

The Ann Arbor Public Schools could soon have a policy that will determine who’s entitled to having a district building, library, pool or other asset named after him or her and whether names are up for sale.

At a planning committee this week, Superintendent Todd Roberts agreed to have his administration draft a naming policy.

Committee chairman Glenn Nelson said after the meeting that he predicts considerable public debate before a board vote, especially over what contributions are to be recognized and how.

“We expect it to be a sensitive issue with lots of differences of opinions that need to be aired,’’ said Nelson. “It’s important because naming is a way of recognizing people for important contributions, and honoring them and these contributions come in many different forms.’’

One form is service to the district and the community, he said. Another is to contribute resources, financial and otherwise.

Tight budgets have made naming a more pressing issue now, Nelson said. He also said the AAPS Educational Foundation is expanding its push for private donations and expects queries from large donors about naming rights.

“People like to name things,’’ said committee member Irene Patalan in a phone interview on Tuesday. “To name a baby or a business is really intriguing, and people love to be part of that. All the opinions we got when naming Skyline High School evoked a lot of emotion ... Ann Arbor is a very active community. They want their hands in things, which is great. ‘’Also at issue is whether the district should sell naming rights to a corporate entity, a policy which has been adopted in other Michigan school districts.

Patalan said her initial response is no way.

“I don’t like that piece of commercialism in our children’s lives,’’ she said.

But she said these are weird times that call for an open mind, and that there could be reasons that would make it fiscally responsible.But it would take a lot.

“I haven’t even gotten over Comerica Park yet,’’ she said.

A first draft of the policy is expected this fall. 


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