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BOE petitioned to rename school

Parents and concerned citizens of Georgiana presented the Board of Education with a reported petition of 500 signatures asking the board to reconsider naming of the new Butler County Magnet School.

“To exclude the parents and the people of Georgiana from this decision was simply wrong,” said Pam Kilpatrick, addressing board members on Thursday night. “Many of us are lifelong residents of Georgiana and we believe we have lost our connection to the school. It only seems right for a school to bear the name of its community.”

Board members selected a name for the new $14 million K-12 facility in November. It is scheduled to open in August. The new school will consolidate Robert L. Austin Elementary and Georgiana High School.

Board members have said the name was selected based what they intend the school to be, which is a technological, mathematics and science institution that will better prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century.

Kilpatrick said Georgiana supporters were left entirely out of the decision process for naming the new school. She criticized board members for the suddenness in which the new school was named.

In 2007, she said, board members hosted a series of public meetings to educate the public on the need for increased sales tax to fund school construction.

Georgiana and McKenzie leadership each voted to raise sales tax, as did the Butler County Commission, to help fund almost $25 million in new construction and renovations to existing campus.

“We believe a decision (naming the school) of this magnitude should have also involved everyone,” said Kilpatrick.

Superintendent Mike Looney said the board feels the issue is closed.

“Could the matter have been handled better? Yes,” he said. “I have no problem publicly admitting that, but I would be shocked if the board reversed their decision on this.”

Board members were asked to respond to a series of questions attached to the petition within 14 days.

“There will certainly be a response,” said Looney. “I don’t know if it will be within the time table requested or whether or not the board will task me with that duty.”

Only board member Linda Hamilton publicly commented on the petition during the meeting. Hamilton said she sympathized the parents and students of Georgiana.

Hamilton said she attended Southside High School, which was the school for African-Americans during segregation.

When schools integrated, both whites and blacks attended the Southside campus, which became the former Greenville High School on School Highlands Rd.

“All of my siblings under me came up under a new school name, a new mascot, a new school colors,” she said.

McKenzie supporter Greg Griffin also addressed the board. Some McKenzie residents fear having an open enrollment K-12 school in Georgiana will drain more students from the south end of the county, leading to the school’s eventual closing.

“I ask the board and Mr. Looney to support McKenzie,” said Griffin. “It would be a shame to tarnish the legacy of this board by closing McKenzie School.”

Board membes declared Georgiana High School and Robert L. Austin Elementary School as surplus property on Thursday night in preparation for the eventual move-in at the Butler County Magnet School.