Editor's note: Staff writer Jonathan Kleppinger is a member of the committee that recommended a name for the new elementary school.
The Jessamine County Board of Education put aside a committee’s unanimous recommendation on a name for the new elementary school Monday, instead asking the committee to bring back the same name and two more next month.
The naming committee headed by Andi McNeal, the current Wilmore Elementary principal who will serve as the principal of the new school on Union Mill Road when it opens next year, brought a recommendation of Red Oak Elementary to the board meeting Monday night. The new school sits about 1 mile away from the two-room Red Oak School that was in operation until 1952.
“I’m coming from a school that has a huge, rich tradition, and I’d really love to start that with our new building,” McNeal told the board during the work session. “Tagging into the history of our county is a great way to create that for kids. I also love it because out of tiny acorns grow mighty oaks.”
But several board members expressed displeasure with the option, chairman Eugene Peel saying he would prefer East Jessamine Elementary and vice chairperson Amy Day saying she favored something to honor the military. Hallie Bandy was the only board member who expressed vibrant support for the Red Oak name during the work session, but Bandy was not present for the vote during the meeting as she left to see her son’s West Jessamine High basketball team play in the 12th Region tournament.
“The tree is a great, strong image for education,” Bandy said.
Day voiced strong opposition to the Red Oak name in the work session, saying that identity already belongs to the old school and wouldn’t be a new one for a new school. She also didn’t share McNeal’s concern that using East Jessamine would promote the East-West rivalry too early in students’ careers.
“I think any school has its own identity regardless,” Day said. “And as far as the rivalry, that doesn’t start until middle-school sports, and I think a lot of parents carry that more than the kids do.”
Peel and Day both argued that the school was already known as East Jessamine. The project’s architects from Sherman Carter Barnhart had labeled the school “East Jessamine Elementary” in their documents, though that was more of a placeholder for their records than a suggested name, SCB project manager Mitch Hunter said Monday night.
The 12-member naming committee met once in early February and came out of that discussion with a unanimous recommendation of Red Oak Elementary. That committee included students, parents and staff who will be at the new school.
When the item came up on the agenda during Monday’s meeting, Fran Settle moved to table the issue and ask the committee to bring back three recommendations in March. Settle clarified after making the motion that the three options she was referencing would be Red Oak, East Jessamine and a third option at the naming committee’s discretion. Peel had suggested East Oak in the work session as a compromise and mentioned that again before the board’s 4-0 vote to table the issue.
Committee member Doug Fain, who serves as the circuit clerk and will be a parent of a student at the new school, had written a letter to the board in support of the Red Oak name since he could not attend Monday’s meeting. Fain said Monday night that he was disheartened the board had not voted to approve the recommendation.
“I was very disappointed to hear that the board did not pass the unanimous recommendation of what I felt was a very diverse committee who took their time to consider all the choices,” Fain said. “The name of Red Oak would give the school individuality, like all the other elementary schools have, and would honor the area of the community it sits in as well as remember our past and what brought our educational system in this county to where it is today.”
The issue will be on the agenda for the board of education’s next meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, March 25, in the Royse Administration Building at 871 Wilmore Road in Nicholasville.