Elementary school’s name the subject of debate, heartache

Oct 4, 2019

The debate over the new elementary school’s name continued at Thursday night’s School Committee meeting, as a vote to name (or re-name) the school Wareham Elementary failed, a warrant article for the Spring Town Meeting passed, and Decas descendent Cindy Parola spoke passionately to the board.

The new school will be located at the site of the old Minot Forest Elementary School, and will serve both former Minot students and current John W. Decas Elementary School students.

The school’s name is currently in question, as is the procedure for naming it.

The Board of Selectman, Town Counsel Richard Bowen, and some members of the public believe that the school has already been named the Decas School at Minot Forest. According to them, Town Meeting voters named the school at the 2018 Fall Town Meeting when the article funding the school was approved. That warrant article was titled “Decas School at Minot Forest Debt Exclusion,” and some think that meant voters were also approving the school’s name.

Some of the members of the School Committee and the School Building Committee, however, disagree, and saw that name as a place-holder. School Committee Chair Mike Flaherty pointed out that the article’s title wasn’t decided on by the selectmen until after School Committee members left the room.

Geoff Swett, the head of the School Building Committee, along with Flaherty and others, believe that the school is currently unnamed and think that the School Committee has the authority to name the building. 

The committee attempted to name the school at the meeting, but the vote failed. Committee member Mary Morgan was absent, and member Apryl Rossi voted against the motion. 

The School Building Committee had previously voted 15-3 to recommend naming the school Wareham Elementary. 

The committee did approve a warrant article which would change the name to the Wareham Elementary School for the Spring Town Meeting. 

Procedure aside, the name of the school is also fraught. While Superintendent Kimberly Shaver-Hood, who was not present at Thursday’s meeting, along with members of the School Committee and School Building Committee, think that naming the school Wareham Elementary School, with various wings of the building named after John W. Decas and Minot Forest, would be inclusive, Cindy Parola disagreed.

“The word inclusive has also been mentioned. That confuses me. I’m not sure what’s inclusive about losing history or individuality,” Parola said, noting that both the Decas and Minot families are immigrants with long histories in the town. 

She also mentioned that she considered the John W. Decas School to be a war memorial, as it is named after her uncle who was killed in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.

School Committee member Joyce Bacchiocchi expressed her gratitude to Parola for speaking to both the School Committee and the School Building Committee. The members of the both committees had always intended to honor both the Decas and Minot families by naming various areas of the school after them.

“I truly believe that by naming the new school "Wareham Elementary School" it gives us the opportunity to honor her family and the others who have also given generously to our schools,” Bacchiochi said. “It is not my intention to erase any of the history associated with the names of our current elementary schools.”

Committee members acknowledged the importance of remembering and honoring the Decas and Minot families’ contributions, and continuing to educate students about that history, regardless of the school’s name.

At the end of the meeting, the school’s name was still up in the air, and it seems like voters at the Spring Town Meeting will have the final say.