New school name to be decided at Town Meeting

Oct 14, 2020

The name of the new elementary school being built on Minot Avenue will be up for a vote at the fall Town Meeting, whenever it is held.

At the Tuesday night Board of Selectmen meeting, Mike Flaherty and Rhonda Veugen spoke about the rationale behind their citizens’ petition to name the new building “The Wareham Elementary School.”

It is the Board of Selectmen’s position that the school already has a name: “The Decas School at Minot Forest.”

When Town Meeting voted to fund the new school in 2018, the article referred to the project as the “Decas School at Minot Forest.” The Selectmen asserted that that article simultaneously named the school, although that was not explicitly discussed at the time.

In a discussion of the school name in January 2020, Selectman Peter Teitelbaum said that, back in 2018, he came up with the name that appeared on the article on the spot when the Selectmen were adding the article to fund the school to the warrant, and it was discussed publicly — although it seems the School Committee and School Building Committee did not understand that that article was also naming the school.

Town Counsel Richard Bowen has said that the school should be named by Town Meeting.

The School Committee, of which Flaherty is a member, attempted to put an article on the warrant of the spring Town Meeting to name the school “Wareham Elementary,” but that article was blocked by the Board of Selectmen.

Flaherty said that he and the school committee had attempted to follow their policy, put in place in the mid-2000s, for naming and dedicating school buildings, rooms, or properties. The policy requires the consensus of the relevant building’s principal, the superintendent, and 2/3 of the School Committee for a name to be chosen.

“We were trying to follow the policy, and it became moot anyway,” Flaherty said.

Citizens’ petitions, like the one authored by Flaherty and Veugen (a member of the School Building Committee), are automatically placed on the warrant.

Flaherty said that the new school would still honor the contributions of the Decas and Minot families through named wings. The third and fourth grade section of the school would be called the Minot Wing, and visitors to the school would almost immediately see the John W. Decas Innovation Hub as they walked through the front doors.

Veugen said that the school’s current name, “The Decas School at Minot Forest,” was improper for two reasons: It neglects to honor John W. Decas, the namesake of the current elementary school, and it doesn’t specify that the building is an elementary school.

If the citizens’ petition fails, the school would remain “The Decas School at Minot Forest.”