By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — PERU — There are some passionate feelings over a new name for Peru Central School District’s Secondary School.
“Please do everything you can to get out there and talk to people, community members, because I feel strongly that it would just make me so sad to think that Peru Central School is changed to Peru Academy,” Kristin Roy told the School Board at a recent meeting. “I’m sorry, I think that’s ridiculous.”
PCSD’s middle and high schools were combined March 1 as part of a district-wide restructuring and became known as Peru Secondary School.
However, the district invited the community to weigh in on a more permanent name for the school.
Two surveys, one for students and one for community members, were posted on the district’s website and asked people to vote for a new name; one choice was “Peru Academy.”
Survey participants also had the option of typing in their own suggestions.
The surveys have since closed.
Roy was among multiple district residents who expressed frustration at the meeting, saying the district failed to properly communicate information about the name change to the public.
Many were not aware that the online surveys existed or do not have Internet access, she told the board, yet the district encouraged students to vote on a new name for the school.
In addition, she noted, the survey allowed her to cast multiple votes, and even non-residents of the district were able to take part.
“I think you really need a representative vote, and I don’t know if you’re going to get that doing the system that you have set up ... You could be getting people who are voting from God knows where.
Board President Donna LaRocque said the new name would only affect the secondary grades; the district will remain known as Peru Central School.
Students were given time to complete the survey in their classes, she said, “because we want them to own this. We want them to have a sense of belonging.”
“We should all own this,” Roy retorted from the audience. “It’s our community; it’s our school ... If you’re having students vote in their classes, but you’re not letting (the community know), how is that a representative vote?”
LaRocque said that while the district’s budget vote, for example, isn’t necessarily representative, it’s still the official vote, “and unfortunately, that’s kind of what we’re left with.”
Still, she said, the district welcomes suggestions for how to involve more residents in deciding the school’s new name.
In addition, LaRocque told meeting attendees that the name change will save the district “tens of thousands of dollars.”
Peru Central Superintendent Dr. Patrick Brimstein told the Press-Republican in a separate interview that because some services PCSD purchases are priced based on the number of schools in the district, the recent restructuring stands to bring savings, as it combined Peru Central’s four schools into two.
That means the former Middle School and High School can’t go back to two separate names, LaRocque explained at the meeting, as the State Education Department would consider them separate schools, and the district would not be able to realize the savings.
LaRocque also said she and Brimstein take responsibility for the lack of communication about the name change.
“We are owning that that was a mistake, and we’re trying to move forward and have better communication in the future,” she said.
Brimstein told the Press-Republican that he hopes to include everyone who wishes to be involved in deciding the school’s final name. The district is considering holding a public forum sometime next month to discuss the results of the surveys.
Email Ashleigh Livingston:firstname.lastname@example.org