As the District 97 Board of Education considers allowing parts of school buildings in the district to be named after financial sponsors, Oak Parkers won’t have to worry about such names as Paris Hilton Middle School or the Jack Black Auditorium at Beye Elementary School, board members insist.

Even though some students may find those possibilities pretty nifty.

The board, nevertheless, is looking at revising its policy that would allow designated areas of school buildings to be named after a person based on monetary donations.

Currently, commemorations may be designated by the board or through petitions. The revised policy would allow the district to consider monetary donations as factor.

Dist. 97 board member Julie Blankemeier floated the idea about the proposed policy change. Blankemeier said the district is only considering a change.

She said colleges and universities, for instance, utilize such a policy. Blankemeier insisted the district is not looking to sell school names to the highest bidder.

“It’s about the relationship that a person has to the district,” she said. “This is just looking at ways for people to contribute, and how we can harness resources in the district in the most appropriate manner. It’s more of a commemoration and dedication to supporters.”

The topic may or may not come up at tonight’s board meeting, she said. Any change would be subject to board approval.

If the district goes with the policy change, Oak Park would join other secondary and higher education institutions with similar naming rights policies:

 In 2000, a Charlotte, N.C. school district board adopted a policy to allow computer rooms, gymnasiums and other rooms to be named by corporate sponsors. The board stressed that decisions would be made “tastefully.”

 In 2001, an Alabama school district named its then-newly approved high school for a $1.2 million donor, and renamed two middle schools for separate $500,000 donors. Those who donated $100,000, meanwhile, received a plaque.

 In 1968, The Pritzker family of Chicago became the first family to have a medical school bear its name after shelling out $12 million to the University of Chicago School of Medicine.

 The UCLA School of Medicine is named after David Geffen following the entertainment mogul’s $200 million donation to the school in 2002.

 Last October, an Austin, Texas school district released the list of names nominated for five new schools, including such notables as former Texas governor Ann Richards and athletes such as Dallas Cowboys star Troy Aikman. Rocker Ted Nugent, interestingly enough, is also on the list. According to a story on the Austin American-Statesman newspaper website, the nominees were not based on financial donations. Though the Austin school district prohibits the selling of naming rights for any district facilities, “donations” may be a contributing factor.

Blankemeier said Dist. 97 would like to focus on people connected to the district, but would keep all of its options open.

“If it were a company with some connection to the district or someone from outside who wanted to support the district, that would be something to consider,” she said.


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