It has generally been the practice of the Muscogee County School Board to defer school naming to the member in whose district the school is located. The new elementary school that is under construction is in Representative A. J. Senior's district. She has offered a name for the school.
However, the other board members are not deferring.
Regardless of your opinion of the name Ms. Senior offered, it is fair to assume that she used a reasonable process to make her decision. When the subject of naming the school first came up in July, Ms. Senior withdrew her original suggestion due to feedback she received. She was quoted in the Ledger saying, "I was excited about the name. I polled about 25 or 30 people, and they were like, 'Great, great.' But once it got out further, other people asked me to consider other names." Nothing suggests that she did not follow the same process to come up with the name she proposed at the Board's August work session.
Nonetheless, there is still controversy.
I agree that great leaders in our community deserve recognition. But, neither Martin Luther King, Jr. nor George Washington Carver are from Columbus, yet we saw fit to attach their names to local schools. Newton D. Baker, the namesake of Baker Middle School, was the mayor of Cleveland, OH, not Columbus, GA. So, it is not unheard of for our local schools to be named for notable individuals outside of our community.
If the new elementary school is named after Dorothy Height, that's fine with me. If it is named after S.P. Charleston, that works, too.
The bigger issue is consistency. Ms. Senior followed the same process as Representative Mark Cantrell did with the recent naming of Aaron Cohn Middle School. Her proposal should be treated in like manner as his by the members of the board. For anyone to suggest that her proposal is cavalier simply because she did not propose the name of a person directly connected to Columbus is both unfair and unwarranted.
Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.