By Mary Spicer
The 20 concerned members of the Meadville community who gathered Tuesday afternoon at the building known for generations as Second District Elementary School failed to choose a name for the school. Now it will be up to Crawford Central School Board to decide.
The building houses the school known locally as “East End Elementary School at Second District Elementary School” and officially identified by Pennsylvania Department of Education as East End Elementary School.
In response to a request received last summer from a group of parents residing in the former East End Elementary School attendance area, the school board authorized the formation of a committee under the direction of Crawford Central School District Superintendent Charlie Heller to explore the possibility of finding a suitable new name for the school.
As the committee’s first session moved well into its second hour on Tuesday, there was only one apparent area of agreement: The name of the South Main Street facility should not be East End Elementary School.
Beyond that, committee members were divided into two camps: those who think the name should be Second District Elementary School; and those who think the name should be something else.
The group agreed to a suggestion first put forth by school board member Richard Curry, who attended the meeting.
- Curry will report on the committee’s progress to the school board during its Monday work session, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the district’s Instructional Support Center in Vernon Township.
- The committee will divide into two subcommittees: those who want to keep the name Second District; and those who want to change it.
- The subcommittee wanting the name to be Second District will prepare a recommendation to the school board to that effect.
- The subcommittee wanting the name to be something else will prepare a recommendation to the board consisting of only one name.
- During the board’s Nov. 12 work session, each subcommittee will have exactly five minutes to present an argument in favor of its recommendation.
- The board will vote on the recommendations during its Nov. 19 board meeting.
In the beginning
In preparation for the recent expansion and renovation of the district’s West End Elementary School in Vernon Township, which closed the school for the entire 2011-12 school year, Crawford Central officials redrew the boundaries of the district’s Meadville elementary attendance area. While some students at all the schools were shifted as a result of the change, Second District’s student body, faculty and staff was completely redistributed to allow Crawford Central to move almost the entire student body and faculty of West End into the South Main Street facility; West End’s sixth-graders were shifted to First District Elementary School.
According to Superintendent Charlie Heller, 40 percent of Second District’s student population was shifted to First District; 35 percent to East End; 15 percent to Neason Hill; and 10 percent remained in Second District.
Second District faculty members were allowed to bid into other district positions created through retirements, resignations or furloughs; according to Principal Kurt Meader, one Second District faculty member ended up teaching at East End and then returning to the South Main Street facility.
During the 2011-12 school year, the school board agreed to permanently close East End, physically the district’s smallest in-town school, and shift its entire current student body, faculty and staff into the Second District facility beginning with the 2012-13 school year.
However, when the paperwork was filed in connection with the closing of East End, Pennsylvania Department of Education acted on the assumption that since the entire student body, faculty and staff that had occupied East End during the year prior to the move was making the move, then the educational entity would continue to be known as East End Elementary School. This came as a surprise to Crawford Central administrators, who were not aware that a separate document approved by the school board designating Second District Elementary School as the formal name of the facility should have also been filed. By the time that information reached him in mid-summer, Heller said there was not time for the board to act before PDE’s annual deadline for approving all school name changes.
“I’m probably as confused as everybody else,” Carl Moore, Crawford Central’s attorney, told the Tribune following PDE’s decision to maintain the East End name. “Their theory is that East End Elementary School building is closed but that the students, since they’re going en masse to Second District, aren’t going to a new school.
“Since Second District students were absent from the school for one year, the students there are without a home, so to speak,” Moore continued. “That’s kind of tortured logic because the building still stands and all the Second District students are coming back to their school.
“If you take the theory that all of East End elementary is going to Second District and the building is closed, their theory is that you haven’t closed the ‘school’ — that follows the students for the rest of their lives,” Moore continued. “What about Second District kids? Aren’t they coming back to their school? West End students are now going back to West End, but should it be known as Second District Students at West End? It doesn’t make sense.”
According to School Reconfigurations Advisor Suzanne Tallman at Pennsylvania Department of Education, the only thing that would have been required to keep “Second District” the school’s official designation is a vote by the school board and directions to that effect to her office. “I don’t second-guess school boards,” she told the Tribune during a recent interview.
What to watch for next
A committee has been formed to help Crawford Central School District settle on a name for the Meadville building known for generations as Second District School. School board member Richard Curry will report on a committee’s progress during the board’s Monday work session, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the district’s Instructional Support Center in Vernon Township.