SOUTHINGTON — An ad-hoc education board committee wants South End School renamed after the late Zaya A. Oshana, the town’s longest-serving school board member.
If adopted by the full Board of Education, the South End Road school would become Zaya A. Oshana Elementary School at South End.
The committee had considered renaming one of three schools and chose South End rather than Flanders or Plantsville. Committee members included three school board members and two residents who are former educators and who petitioned for Oshana’s name to be on a school.
During Tuesday’s meeting, committee members said that while picking a school to rename was difficult, the decision to honor Oshana was easy.
“It was unanimous that he, without a doubt, met all the criteria necessary to have something named after him,” said Terri Carmody, school board vice chairwoman and committee chairwoman. “There wasn’t a question in any of our minds.”
Parents from all three schools objected to a name change at a public hearing late last month. While many said they supported honoring Oshana, each contingent had arguments for the existing school names. Oshana, an educator, died two years ago.
Patricia Queen, a school board member on the committee, said Flanders’ future is uncertain since a recent consultant’s report included options for closing the school as part of a larger elementary school redistricting plan. She also opposed renaming Plantsville since the neighborhood and school honor the Plant brothers who were important figures in the village’s history.
Queen, with others in agreement, said South End was the best fit. The school name could be preserved even with the addition of Oshana. There was also some precedence for renaming regionally named schools, such as Central Elementary School, which became Derynoski School and West Ridge School which became Kelley School.
Queen said she tallied emails, testimony at the public hearing and other correspondence from parents on both sides of renaming schools.
“It’s almost a draw, those for and those against,” she said.
Parents were concerned about the loss of history with a renaming as well as signs, t-shirts and other PTO-purchased merchandise which would be outdated. Half a dozen were at Tuesday’s meeting.
Carmody said it was a difficult issue but was glad parents made their opinions heard.
“It becomes emotional for people,” she said.
The school board can modify or reject the committee’s recommendation, according to Carmody. It will take up the issue at its June 20 meeting.
The petition for Oshana was started by Angelo Coppola, a former assistant superintendent, and Beecher Lajoie, a former Thalberg school principal.
Coppola acknowledged the passion parents had for their school names.
“Parents are doing what they were asked to do, that is get involved with the school their children attends,” he said.
Lajoie praised Oshana and described him as a man of integrity, fairness and thoughtfulness.
“The contributions of Mr. Oshana are not often seen or demonstrated,” Lajoie said. “He leaves us a legacy that all of us can live by.”
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