OPINION: A new school name in Southington

OPINION: A new school name in Southington

I may be missing something, but I don’t understand what’s been going on in Southington with the naming of schools.

I suppose the school board can do whatever it wants when it comes to naming buildings. That’s at least what a recent Record-Journal story said. And it’s not as though it isn’t important. The John Weichsel Municipal Center, for example, is named after the town’s first town manager who went way beyond what you’d expect when it comes to longevity and such positions. Town managers do their thing and move on. Weichsel became an institution.

And it’s not that I have any argument when it comes to Zaya Oshana Sr., who died two years ago. He had served on Southington’s school board for 34 years, which is a record in terms of longest serving. He’d also been a fifth-grade teacher and vice principal, and had taught at the University of New Haven.

In other words, a stellar record of service that deserves recognition.

“It’s quite a wonderful biography,” noted Terri Carmody. “No one has any objection to Mr. Oshana himself.”

OK, but if you noted an element of defense in that last statement, you win points for paying attention.

Carmody is at the helm of a school board committee tasked with recommending how to honor Oshana Sr. There was this idea of naming a school for him. South End, Flanders and Plantsville schools were under consideration.

So far, so good — except that there were people who didn’t think it was a good idea to change the names of those schools. Some of those who have kids going to Plantsville started a petition about it. Who knows how you go about measuring such things, but by the end of the third week in May there had been 150 people who’d signed that petition. That seems like a lot considering you’re talking about a school’s name and not, for example, opposition to climate change and global warming.

Part of the argument was that the school’s name already had enough historical significance, as in Plantsville honoring two Plant brothers who in the mid-19th century helped establish that section of Southington. Not a bad argument against fooling around with a school’s name, but Carmody told the Record-Journal that research at the Historical Society did not find a direct link between the Plant brothers and the name of the school. So …

What it shows, at least, is that people care about these things. They care about naming something for someone who deserves it, and they care about keeping names. There was opposition from parents involved in all three schools under consideration, though that of Plantsville was the most energetic.

“I believe in keeping history alive. Every year we seem to be losing a little bit more of Plantsville history.” That comment, from Stacey Buonanni, a Plantsville resident and teacher at the school, was repeated in a Record-Journal editorial that appeared on May 24.

The editorial also offered a suggestion: Why not simply add the honoree’s name to the existing name of the school?

That is now what appears to be happening. Earlier this week, the committee picked South End School. If the complete school board decides to go ahead with the recommendation, the school will become Zaya A. Oshana Elementary School at South End.

So that would put an end to it, at least, but perhaps not a complete end to hard feelings. You have to wonder whether the simple goal of honoring someone who deserves it had to involve so much fuss.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or jkurz@record-journal.com