Tuesday, Jun 25th

Residents Object to Renaming PA High School for Donor Steven Schwarzman

DonorRecognitionThough Board President William Natbony insists that the method of recognizing donors to the Scarsdale Schools is at the sole discretion of the Board of Education, some in the community are questioning whether a 9 ‘ x 9’ foot plaque with donors’ names should be installed at SHS.

Natbony says that the Board of Education already approved the design for these plaques at an earlier meeting, but will discuss the $38,000 in spending as a separate agenda item.

Some community members object to naming donors in the public school setting and fear that it sends the wrong message to students and faculty. They say that the district does not have an official policy on naming rights and object to the installation of such a large public display without the benefit of community debate on the most appropriate way to recognize donors.

In the past, donors were acknowledged in smaller ways. For example, those who gave money to the first synthetic track at SHS 13 years ago, had their names engraved in the pavers. However, in this case, the district and the Scarsdale Schools Education Foundation are seeking a way to acknowledge gifts that funded the Fitness Center and Design Lab at the high school and are proposing large plaques to be posted on the walls of the school.

A news item this weekend may be of interest.

According to the New York Times, Wall Street billionaire Stephen A. Schwarzman proposed a $25 million gift to his alma mater in Abington, PA to fund a large renovation of the high school. In exchange for his gift he asked that the school be renamed “Abington Schwarzman High School” in his honor, that spaces in the school be renamed for his twin brothers, that he have the right to review the project’s contractors and the right to sign off on a new school logo.

The Board of Education President was caught off guard when 250 residents showed up at a school board meeting to object. According to the New York Times, there was “shouting, name-calling and more than one demand for officials to resign.” In addition, 1,500 people signed a petition to keep the name of the school as is. They objected to the deal which was “made behind a closed door” and demanded a transparent process.

The NY Times article says, “Naming-rights deals are common, but they increasingly risk provoking fierce reactions — sometimes leading to embarrassing retreats by the wealthy patrons and the recipients of their largess.”

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