Petition drive seeks to rename school for late Carroll principal

June 16, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

The Winfield Elementary School PTA has launched an effort to rename the school after Raymond Mathias, Winfield's longtime principal who was killed last month in a car accident.

Organizers of a petition drive have collected signatures from more than 1,000 people in the Winfield community who support changing the school's name to J. Raymond Mathias Elementary.

"He basically dedicated his career to Winfield, and we just thought it would be a fitting memorial to the man," said Lesley Long, a PTA member who presented the petition to the school board last week.

School officials said they were unable to recall another attempt by residents to rename a school.

"It's certainly a very unusual request, and it's a very difficult request," said Vernon Smith, director of school support services.

"A lot of people know and love the [Mathias] family and cared very much for Mr. Mathias," he added. "I don't know whether or not the Board of Education wants to begin the process of changing school names because citizens take up a petition, especially around an emotional issue like this."

The board could direct the superintendent's staff to address the renaming issue or not take action, school officials said.

"I understand why the community wants to [rename Winfield], but ultimately the board is responsible for naming schools," said Superintendent Brian Lockard. "What a lot of schools have done is look at naming a media center after an individual."

The last successful effort to change a name occurred in 1993, when the Carroll County Center for Exceptional Children became Carroll Springs School, Smith said. The change was proposed by the center's school improvement team.

"They felt it was an inappropriate label and asked the superintendent to open up for public participation the renaming of the school," he said.

Smith said board members haven't been receptive to naming new schools after individuals in recent years.

He pointed out that William Winchester, Elmer Wolfe, Robert Moton and Charles Carroll elementary schools and Francis Scott Key High School were named decades ago.

According to the system's policy on naming new schools, the public is invited to suggest names in writing, which are reviewed by a construction planning committee. The panel is made up of administrators, teachers and parents.

The committee then recommends three names to the superintendent, who recommends a name to the board.

Long said it was only a few days after Mathias' fatal accident May 11 that parents raised the idea of renaming Winfield.

"We wondered what could we do to memorialize his commitment to the school and the things he did for the school," Long recalled.

Pub Date: 6/16/98

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