Residents of Gateway have already been called racist and whiny, and you can now add cheaters to the list of terms used to describe those in the community where the Lee County School District’s newest high school will be built.
That’s what LCSD board chairwoman Gwynetta Gittens suggested at the October 17 board briefing meeting where the survey results to name the new high school were presented.
“On our first go-round with the public, it was not digitally done so that you could only vote once, so someone literally could have sat up all night and just voted,” said Gittens.
So Gittens wants a do-over with the voting, this time using a company named Survey Monkey. She and multiple other board members also want all eighth grade students from the East Zone to weigh in on the name as well.
The first survey results were 815 votes for Gateway High School, 54 for Edison High School, 41 for Martin Luther King Junior High School and 19 for Gabriela Mistral High School.
Having run political polls for Gateway District elections I can tell you first hand that Survey Monkey and all other survey and polling services can be easily fooled. Calling balls and strikes here, the reality is that Gittens simply doesn’t like the survey results and wants to create the opportunity to change the outcome.
And perhaps someone hacked in to the district’s servers and deleted hundreds of votes for Martin Luther King Jr? Maybe that could explain why the survey results showed just 41 people voted to name the school after Dr. King? Or maybe … just maybe … the public actually does prefer the name Gateway High School by a 20-to-1 margin.
The specter of cheating was only the first doozy from the board members.
“In the best of possible worlds we would be selecting a school name based on – preferably someone of color… that actually has specific roots to Southwest Florida,” said board member Betsy Vaughn.
That would actually be a laudable goal if Vaughn wanted to offset the imbalance of the number of the district’s high schools that are named after white people. Except that … there aren’t any.
There is however, Ida S. Baker High School in Cape Coral, who happens to be ‘someone of color that actually has specific roots to Southwest Florida.’ … While that checks all the boxes for Vaughn, we apparently need a second school that meets that criteria before we can even consider naming high schools after white folks.
Then there was Melisa Giovannelli. She said she spoke to a police friend of hers who told her that naming the new school Gateway High School would confuse law enforcement officials if an emergency call came in. Giovannelli’s argument may have been more taken seriously if she followed up by suggesting renaming 3 out of the 4 existing schools with Gateway in their name.
Of course, all 911 calls use GPS technology to locate the caller, so Giovannelli needn’t worry too much.
The best part was when multiple board members — who are clearly against the name “Gateway High School” – claimed that after the survey closed they received an avalanche of emails from the public and were deeply concerned their input wasn’t going to be considered. Fellow board member Chris Patricca seemed unmoved, stating that she had received emails too. Exactly six of them.
For her part, Patricca called the 815 votes that Gateway High School received a “mandate” from the public to choose that name.
But naming the school after the Gateway community doesn’t sit well with Gittens, who said she often shows up at the wrong Gateway-area school when she has meetings. Keep in mind this is the person who is currently the top leader of the Lee County School District. Gittens also expressed support for Vaughn’s idea of naming the school after a local person of color, offering the suggestion of a teacher who had recently passed away.
To summarize the October 17 meeting: a number of board members are offering any excuse they can think of not to adhere to the will of the people and name the school after the community it will be built in. Those board members have moved the goal posts and the school district will be conducting a second survey hoping for a different outcome.
Since the board has made it clear that they won’t accept naming the school after a white person, Thomas Edison is out. And it’s difficult to imagine them naming it after Gabriela Mistral, especially since that is actually the pen name of a Chilean poet named Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga (according to Wikipedia).
So it seems we’re down to Gateway High School and Martin Luther King Junior High School.
I would anticipate the second survey will be live early next week, and we will publish a link to it once the school district opens it up to the public.
The do-over survey results are expected to be presented at the October 31 board briefing meeting with a final vote at the November 5 regular board meeting. A ground-breaking ceremony is set for November 13.