School Board Sends Renaming Policy Back for More Work- With Video

Four months after Army Sgt. Ed Nowicki asked the Rochester Board of Education to rename a school after a fallen local soldier, the board and administration are working on establishing policy so they can formally consider the request.

Though a bit surprised it’s taking this long, Nowicki said he’s patient and committed to seeing his request through. He’s convinced that the actions of First Lt. Adam Malson, who was killed in Iraq in 2005, merit such an honor.

“Everyone who hears the story says, ‘Of course you should do that,’” Nowicki said. “Everyone except those that matter the most.”

Malson was on patrol when a bus full of Shia Muslims traveling to a religious shrine was bombed. Malson raced to free a woman from the burning bus and was killed by a suicide bomber. The story wasn’t initially conveyed in great detail because of the volatile situation in Iraq at the time, said Nowicki, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Adam’s men were right back in the street the very next day. They didn’t have time to go back and document,” Nowicki said. “The story didn’t get the recognition it deserved. But all that aside, he deserves recognition from this community. … He’s a real hero.”

Malson and Nowicki both graduated from Rochester High School in 1998. At the April 25 board of education meeting, the board discussed a proposed new policy presented by the administration. So many questions were raised that Superintendent Dave Pruneau withdrew the proposal for more work.

Pruneau proposed that when a renaming request is received, the board should determine whether it is interested and, if so, appoint a committee to study the matter and make a recommendation for the board’s consideration. He said the recommendation should consider the significance of a facility’s original name, the criteria used to name it, any legal ramifications of renaming, the relationship between the facility and the proposed new name, and the cost involved.

The district’s foundation has a separate policy regarding naming facilities in connection with large donations, and several board members said there needed to be greater clarity so there’s no confusion.

“I don’t want to misconstrue that the person with the biggest wallet gets the honor,” said Trustee Beth Talbert. “I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.”

A parent in the audience suggested that the district policy should exclude corporate names, and that there should be a cooling off period to “put the person’s contribution into historical significance so that we don’t make an emotional decision.”

Trustee Chuck Coutteau, who spent 27 years in the military, said this particular request is emotional for him.

“I read Lt. Malson’s story. … That’s heroic,” he said. But he noted that two others from the community have also died in the current wars. He suggested a wall of honor like the one at West Point, his alma mater. “Because we also want to inspire our kids,” he said. “That is a way to sustain that honoring of heroes.”

Trustee Marty Sibert said the policy must take into account all the circumstances under which a renaming request could arise.

“In some respects it’s unfortunate that the emotional issue that has caused us to consider this policy has been the death of a fallen hero,” he said. “My hope would be that the other groups that are trying to influence us recognize we’re taking our responsibility seriously and doing the best we can for our students and our community.”

Nowicki said the board shouldn’t fear setting a precedent.

“What Adam did is so unequalled and on such a high level of heroism, I don’t’ think there is a precedent that is being set,” he said. “And God forbid somebody from this town has to be put in that situation. It’s a great precedent to set.”

Both Rochester City Council and the Rochester Downtown Development Authority board have passed resolutions in favor of Nowicki’s request. A Facebook page he started now has nearly 1,800 supporters.

“Support is growing for it daily and we’re just going to keep building on it,” he said.

Coutteau said there’s something else residents can do, “and that is emulate their service … and that is giving of your time,” he said. Malson “did what he did for duty and honor and country and to maintain the innocence of human life.”

By Annette Kingsbury

Comments

  1. Ed Nowicki says:

    Misquoted in one part of this. I did not state I wanted the Board to consider renaming Hamlin Elementary, as that school follows the policy and is named for someone significant to the community. Rather, there are 3 schools who’s names bear no significance and do not follow Rochester Policy #7250 which states that elementary schools shall be named as memorials to people significant to the community. Those 3 aforementioned schools are “Long Meadow”, “North Hill”, and “Brooklands”
    – Ed Nowicki

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