Westfall family disappointed; Scouters name also questioned

The North Clackamas School District last week chose to honor former state school superintendent and six-year senator Verne Duncan with the name of a school, despite pleas from neighbors, friends and a state representative that they name it after the former owner of the property, Jack Westfall.

'I personally have read and re-read all the [public input], particularly as it pertains to this site … and while I am very empathetic for this family, and while the Westfalls have very deep roots, I am not comfortable naming the site that came from many families' after a single property owner, said board member Cheryl Myers.

The board chose the name Verne A. Duncan Elementary School following a recommendation from the naming committee the board established, though board member Linda Moraga and Board Chairman Lee Merrick voted against the name.

Family and friends of the Westfalls, who had lived on the land for 30 years, argued that the name should honor their family not because they had given up their land for the school district but because of what Jack Westfall and his wife, Jeanne, stood for.

'The property stands as evidence of all [Jack Westfall's] dedication, quality of character and labor of love,' said Jack Westfall's daughter, Susan Westfall. 'It gives proof that family, personal discipline, creative efforts and community spirit are worth remembering and honoring. To remember Jack and Jeanne Westfall by naming the elementary school on site C after them provides a tribute to the pioneer spirit that built this community and remembers a pair who are loved and appreciated for their many contributions.'

The naming committee instead recommended the district honor all the property owners with a landmark of some sort on the site, 'so that these students know that these people moved on so that they could use this site,' said Joe Krumm, the district's director of community and government relations and a member of the naming committee.

The naming committee chose the name following over 100 suggestions from more than 200 people in the community, weighing history and precedent and only deciding based on a supermajority vote of the naming committee.

Westfalls 'heartbroken'

Though surprised that they even got two votes against the proposed name, Susan Westfall said she was 'heartbroken' at the board's decision.

The support extended beyond the family, too.

'I was very disappointed,' said Virginia Davidson, who said she's known Jack Westfall for about 60 years. 'I really thought they would name the school after this family, after this caring, wonderful family.'

And Angela Pederson, a member of the naming committee, said she'll teach her children about the man whose land they're on.

'My children will be at the Westfall site,' she said. 'It's always Westfall as far as I'm concerned … I will do what I can to make sure the Westfall legacy continues on this site. Jack is a true American hero, he stands for everything you would want your kids to emulate.'

The district also chose to name a school Scouters Mountain, despite objections from board member Vivian Scott.

'To some people in our district, to some children and their families, that organizations stands for discrimination, and I can't in good conscience have our school represented in that manner' Scott said, referring to the Boy Scouts of America and its stance against homosexuality. 'I think naming our school that is taking a step backwards.

'All the sites in our district should be welcoming to all the students and I do not think naming this site Scouters Mountain reflects the values of our district.'

But other members of the committee had other views on the site and the organization.

'My take on it is it is really more of a geographic representation' related to the Scouters Mountain landmark than the organization, said Myers.

And board member Rein Vaga said the organizations positive factors outweigh the negative.

'I was a boy scout, it made a huge difference in my life.'

Fast Facts

School names chosen by board:

Site A: middle School attached to Happy Valley Elementary School. Chosen name: Happy Valley Middle School.

Site B: Elementary school on 172nd Avenue north of Hagen Road. Chosen name: Scouters Mountain Elementary School.

Site C: Elementary School on 172nd Avenue just north of Highway 212. Chosen name: Verne A. Duncan Elementary School.

Site D: Middle school on 162nd Avenue north of Highway 212. Chosen name: Rock Creek Middle School.

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