School Board blocks change to facility naming policy

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jeff Keller walks away from Monday nights Beaverton School Board meeting blown away by the discussion about whether to change a rule about naming school facilities and memorializing former students.Community members who have championed a campaign to name the Southridge High School athletic stadium after Army Pfc. Andrew Keller are hoping four members of the Beaverton School Board will have a change of heart.

While encouraged that board members Mary VanderWeele, Tom Quillin and Linda Degman were willing to change a district policy, which does not allow facilities within schools to be given separate names, about 35 people left Monday’s meeting disappointed that the other board members did not take action to pave the way to allow the community to honor the 2008 Southridge graduate who was killed in action last August in Afghanistan.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Alan Lohner encourages the School Board to change its 'anti-hero' policy.Thousands have voiced support for memorializing Keller’s service and ultimate sacrifice by naming the former Skyhawk football captain’s home turf Andrew Keller Memorial Field.

“I’m disappointed in some members of the School Board for standing in the way of the will of the community,” said Brett Roesch, who serves with the Oregon Army National Guard Honor Guard and whose son is a sophomore at Southridge. “Naming the field after a man like Andrew would give my son and other students in the future someone to look up to who was only a few years older than them. His story of courage, leadership and service for others serves as an inspiration that I think is imperative for these young people to have.

“Andrew made the ultimate sacrifice for our country that is worthy of this kind of tribute.”

Andrew’s father Jeff Keller sat in the back of the room with his wife Kim, son Derek and Andrew’s fiancé Marissa Jones as the School Board spent an hour discussing the pros and cons of changing the existing policy that states auditoriums, athletic fields, the cafeteria, lobby, library and other facilities within a school cannot have a different name.

“It made me question if the board is truly representative of our community, which has spoken so loud and clear about what it wants,” Jeff Keller reflected on Tuesday.

Changing the policy to allow schools to memorialize former students and staff by naming facilities after them to allow their stories to inspire future generations and add to the history of a campus community is something that is common practice in neighboring districts and across the nation, he added. That’s one of the reasons his family agreed to support the Andrew Keller Memorial Field community campaign.

“I want to see 10 to 15 years from now: a dad walk on the field with his son for the first football game or track meet or lacrosse practice and have his son look up and see Andrew’s name. When the son asks about it, I want that father to say, ‘Well let me tell you about Andrew and what he was all about,’” Jeff Keller said. “I want Andrew’s story to inspire others down the road. I think Andrew would want that, too.”

That father-son scenario cannot happen unless board members LeeAnn Larsen, Sarah Smith, Karen Cunningham and Jeff Hicks can be TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Beaverton School Board member Mary VanderWeele spoke in favor of renaming school facilities to honor deceased heroes, while Board member Karen Cunningham favored uniting a school with one carefully selected name.

After Monday’s meeting, it appears the naming restriction will stand.

Hicks, whose zone represents Southridge High School, was sick and unable to attend the meeting to take part in the discussion and hear what other board members had to say. However, Hicks’ prepared written statement, read at the beginning of the discussion, served as the tipping point to keeping the policy rule that prohibits facilities within a school from being given a different name.

While Larsen, Smith and Cunningham agreed with Hicks about that specific revision, they did support other modifications to the policy.

Portions of the policy will be rewritten by the board’s Policy Committee and be presented to the board for consideration.

At that time, Roesch and others hope the board will expand its list of ways schools can honor deceased students and staff members.

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