Some Polk County School Board Members Still Getting It Wrong

Kudos to the four School Board officials who voted Tuesday night to start over the process of naming a new Mulberry elementary school after former Superintendent Gail McKinzie.

The story has played out quite a bit, and I already gave my thoughts on the school name a couple of weeks ago.

But even though the Board decided to go back to the drawing board, some of the comments from Board members included in The Ledger’s story baffled me.

First was Kay Fields, whom I do respect some for sticking to her guns. But how can she be so adamant in not even considering changing the name when the public outcry is so bad? Especially when the public making the outcry had no say in what their new school will be named in the first place.

Here was Fields’ comment: “In my opinion, it wasn’t anything that was haphazard or illegal … You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. We have the sign up saying it’s Dr. McKinzie Elementary School. So now we want to go back and take it away from her. To me that’s an insult. Maybe we didn’t go about it the right way but we made a decision.”

Just because you made a decision doesn’t mean you can’t go back and try to make it right. And it’s not like the Board even voted to officially change the name yet, it just voted to start the process over with community input.

Frank O’Reilly was the other member to vote against starting over, sort of echoing Fields’ “insult” comment. According to The Ledger, he said the original decision was made to show McKinzie the Board’s appreciation and didn’t want to take that away. OK, so name something else after her, but obviously this is not the right place.

I love that reporter Merissa Green included McKinzie’s thoughts from a letter she sent to Board member Hazel Sellers, in which McKinzie said that Sellers’ push to start the process over was “upsetting” and naming some other building after her would be “insulting.”

She also noted that she didn’t seek after the honor but was grateful for it. Well, if that’s the case, I would think she would understand the position the Board is now in and show a little grace of her own as they try to serve their true constituents: the people of Polk County.

The last comment that struck me as odd came from Tim Harris, for whom I also have a lot of respect. It was the final quote Green used in the story, and could be summed up as overkill. Here you go:

“From here forward we won’t name facilities for people,” Green reported Harris as suggesting to other Board members.

Yeah, I get that this instance has caused headaches for Board members, and naming facilities after people can hurt feelings sometimes. But the issue isn’t naming facilities after people, it’s naming them after the right people.

I don’t think anyone can argue we shouldn’t have schools named after Lawton Chiles, George Jenkins, or Spessard Holland. And maybe when we look back 10-15 years from now, Dr. McKinzie will stand out among Polk’s historical officials and we can recognize her by naming a school after her.

But not this school, and not now.

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