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KISD board faces difficult choices in naming school

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When the Killeen school board names the district’s 33rd elementary school next spring, some people are likely to be disappointed.

It probably won’t be that the school’s name isn’t a worthy choice; rather, it’s because the board has several good nominees to consider — and only one will win the board’s approval.

Last week, Killeen-area residents packed the school board’s meeting to make their pitch for naming the new campus, which will open its doors for the 2014-2015 school year.

Some residents argued the decision is about continuing a tradition. Others who spoke advocated breaking new ground in recognizing an educator. Another group called for honoring a heroic public servant. All who spoke made strong arguments for their respective cases.

A large group of teachers, parents and former students representing Fowler Elementary School showed up to urge the board to move the school’s name to the new school when it opens next year.

Last month, the district informed teachers at Fowler that the small central Killeen school is likely to be closed because of new attendance zones that will take effect when the newest elementary opens — though no formal decision has been made.

The current school, which opened in 1956 and serves about 360 students, was named after Dr. Joseph Anthony Fowler, who served on the Killeen Independent School District board of trustees in the 1940s and was active in the community.

KISD officials stressed that the school’s staff would move to the new campus when it opens, but those who attended the meeting —including former principal Becky Smith and Fowler’s son, Dr. Andy K. Fowler — called for keeping the Fowler tradition alive by transferring the name as well.

It’s hard to argue against tradition, especially one that has served the community well for nearly 60 years.

Another contingent at Tuesday’s meeting — including the president of the local NAACP branch — urged the board to consider a first for the district: naming a school after a female African-American educator, Alice Douse.

Over a 32-year career with KISD, Douse worked as a teacher, consultant, assistant principal and principal. In 1977, Douse was named principal of Haynes Elementary, becoming the first African-American woman to serve in that post. In 1986, the board selected her to be the first principal of Hay Branch Elementary, where she remained until her retirement in 1996.

Given Douse’s strong background in education and groundbreaking status as an administrator, naming a school in her honor would be a sound choice as well.

Also speaking at Tuesday’s meeting was Kimberly Hornsby, whose husband, Killeen police officer Robert Hornsby, was killed in the line of duty in July. Joined by several KPD officers, Mrs. Hornsby told the board that her husband “served his community with mercy, grace and integrity,” and that naming a school after him would do him a great honor.

As the city’s first law enforcement officer in nearly a century to die in the line of duty, Hornsby certainly merits consideration.

A total of 45 names have been put before the board, including state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, who chairs the House Public Education Committee; and Arthur Trujillo, a former KISD board member.

The Killeen school district has 52 school campuses. Of those, 17 are named for individuals — some of whom are still living. If the board decides to go that route again, it will have a difficult choice to make.

Many of the nominees have a strong connection to education, which should factor into the decision-making process.

With that in mind, it might be more appropriate to name a park or public building, such as Killeen’s new police headquarters, in Hornsby’s honor.

Those who are disappointed by the board’s decision won’t have to wait long for another opportunity. The district last month bought 13.5 acres of land in far-south Killeen — for its 34th elementary campus.

Contact Dave Miller at dmiller@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7543

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