Will ego-driven Lee school board members trust the MMM school naming process?

Posted on October 11, 2019, 3:13 pm
6 mins

By this time next week we should know what the top candidates are in terms of potential names for High School MMM, which is being built along Griffin Drive in Gateway.

I say that because a committee tasked with coming up with the list of best possible name options met on October 4, and their findings will be presented to the seven member elected school board either on October 17 or October 22.

Since the school district is a public entity, an agenda packet is published with all relevant information for all board-level meetings a few days before the meetings occur. The committee’s official recommendation or recommendations should be included in the agenda packet for whichever meeting the name is set to come up in.

The question is … what will the board members do with the committee’s recommended name?

Among the seven board members, I can think of at least three of them who would love nothing better than to steer the naming process in their own preferred direction.

In fact I guarantee you – GUARANTEE YOU – that one or more board member will believe they’re so much more clever than everyone because they thought of something NOBODY ELSE has so far, and will attempt to give the school an unorthodox name just to prove their brilliance.

And that’s not counting the board member who decided to fire off a 1:00am email this past August announcing they plan to preempt the entire naming process altogether and make a formal motion that the board name the school after Martin Luther King Jr.

That board member, Melissa Giovannelli, made good on her promise at the next district board meeting – attempting to totally eliminate any and all input from Gateway and the surrounding communities as to what the school should be named.

There is no question in my mind that multiple board members are eyeing the MMM naming process as their personal opportunity to make their mark on the district and on Southwest Florida. So I’m left to wonder if the practically dysfunctional Lee County School District board can get out of its own way and trust the process… and trust the committee… and trust the public input received through the district’s survey on the matter.

And that’s not a vote of confidence in the committee, since we have no idea who was on it… but I would actually trust an anonymous group of 8 people (or however many there were) with the name decision MORE than I would trust ANY of the board members to take the lead on this. Even if those 8 people were selected completely at random from the general public.

So… and I know this won’t be popular with many Gateway residents who read this publication, but if the survey results were overwhelming that the school be named after MLK, and the committee conducted a thought-out and thorough discussion and they decided as a group to make the formal recommendation of MLK to the board, then so be it.

Martin Luther King Junior High School it is.

If that’s the result of the process, I trust that. I trust the community.

But sadly what we cannot trust is the egos of the current board members who have shown an endless stream of personal agendas and petty bickering.. and who have at times allowed their unprofessional behavior to take the attention away from the great work the district does and put that attention squarely upon themselves. (And it isn’t just Giovannelli, let’s be clear about that.)

As for those who have said the name “Gateway High School” must be ruled out due to a 5-year old school district policy against naming schools too closely to other school names… I remind you that just 3 years ago, High School LLL was named Bonita Springs High School despite the existence of Bonita Springs Charter School. There’s literally no difference with MMM.

And I would add that the board needs to consider what further limitations they’d be placing on themselves in terms of naming options, especially after they went to the public hat-in-hand asking for a sales tax increase. After-all, these schools are built with the community’s money and the board members are put in those seats by the community.. so they should listen to the input of the community on important topics like this one.

But ultimately the school name won’t come down to any one policy or any one board member. It will be up to all seven board members you elected to represent you making a collective decision.

Will the board respect the “will of the people” whom they took an oath to serve? Or will the board members try to impress everybody with how outside-the-box they can be in their thinking?

Tell you what… You want to really impress everyone? Shock the world and vote 7-0 on this.

Anyway… We’ll find out soon enough what the board will do. Because along with learning the committee’s recommendation sometime this month, the board’s final decision is expected to be made on November 5.

Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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