WILMINGTON, MA — The Wilmington School Committee has declared support for a plan proposed by Town Manager Jeff Hull to establish a committee to vet naming requests for town-owned properties, fields, parks, stadiums, playgrounds and buildings, including schools and rooms within schools.
While any renaming would still ultimately be on voted on by residents at Town Meeting, the proposed plan would allow a special committee to make recommendations on the merit of the naming request, based on an established and agreed-upon set of criteria.
This special committee (“Naming Committee”) would comprise of five members with two members appointed by the Board of Selectmen, two members appointed by the School Committee, and one member appointed by the Town Moderator. The appointments would serve for an indefinite term and the committee would meet only when necessary.
The Naming Committee, upon a thorough review of the naming request, would vote to submit a written recommendation to the Board of Selectmen. At Town Meeting, the recommendation of the Naming Committee would be presented to voters prior to voting on the naming request. Voters would have the ability to override a request of the Naming Committee, as it does now with Planning Board and Finance Committee requests.
Factors to be considered by the Naming Committee include:
- The degree to which the name has geographic, historic or cultural significance to the property that is being named;
- The degree to which the individual or organization has played a leadership role in Wilmington in advancing quality of life through service in the military, public safety, service in public office, or service to a Wilmington non-profit community organization;
- The nature and quality of the contribution(s) made to the residents of the Town of Wilmington;
- The degree to which the individual or organization has made significant civic contributions or financial contributions to the Town or has made a direct grant of funds for the purpose of developing or enhancing the property to be named;
- Naming of public property after individuals shall only be considered after the individual has stepped down from serving in the military, public safety, public office, or Wilmington non-profit group
- The degree to which the individual or organizations whose name is proposed has a connection to the property to be named
Requests for the naming of public property must be presented to the Naming Committee in writing from any town public official or a member of the public. Requests from the public must be submitted on a petition with the signatures of a minimum of 50 registered voters.
Upon receipt of the request, the Naming Committee shall convene one or more public meetings, which are subject to the Open Meeting Law. The Committee must make their recommendation within 60 calendar days of the recipient of the request.
The Naming Committee may solicit advice from Town officials, affected parties, property owners surrounding the affected property, or others that may provide meaningful input.
The Board of Selectmen may now vote on the Town Manager’s proposal and establish the committee. The Board first wanted to receive feedback from the School Committee, which was overwhelmingly positive.
“I’m appreciative that they included the School Committee in the process,” said School Committee member Julie Broussard. “It would be good to have a process in place that’s fair and clear to the whole town.”
“We felt strongly that we need some kind of a vetting process that’s fair,” said School Committee member Peggy Kane. “I would definitely be in favor of this.”
School Committee member Jennifer Bryson was also in favor, although suggested a rubric or checklist eventually be developed by the Naming Committee to be used when considering each request. She’d like the grading system to be used consistently and for it to be accessible to the public. Colleague MJ Byrnes seconded that idea.
Interim Superintendent Paul Ruggiero suggested two additions to the list of factors for the Naming Committee to consider:
- The degree to which the individual or organization has provided effective dedicated service to or on behalf of the students of Wilmington Public Schools
- The degree to which the individual organization has made a significant contribution, financially or otherwise, to the Wilmington Public Schools
Committee members were supportive of the Ruggiero’s revisions.
Ruggiero will forward the Committee’s comments on the proposal to Town Manager Jeff Hull before any potential vote by the Board of Selectmen.
The School Committee recently received a request to name the new high school auditorium after late School Superintendent Joanne Benton. The request could be the first request considered by the Naming Committee, if it is formed.
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