Tuesday members of the Bend-La Pine Schools board will begin the process of naming what will become its newest high school, which is expected to open in the fall of 2021. If history is any indication, the public can bet the school won’t be named for someone who is currently alive, and it may not be named for a person at all.
That’s district policy, and no doubt there are good reasons for it. But problems arise when district officials ask the public for its thoughts on what a new school should be named, and then fail to explain when they choose something else.
The last time a Bend school was named for a person was in 2008, when a new west Bend elementary school was named for William E. Miller, a longtime Bend businessman. Before that, in 2004, a neighborhood elementary school on the city’s east side was named for Jack Ensworth, a national teacher of the year.
In 2018, the district sought public suggestions about a name for what’s now North Star Elementary School. It received 375 responses, and the name of a late Bend teacher, Arlie Seems, was the most frequently mentioned one.
The board opted instead for North Star, saying it did not want to choose from among the teachers suggested.
We continue to believe that naming schools for individuals who’ve had an impact on the community is a good way to memorialize a bit of the history of Bend. From U.C. Coe, one of the city’s first mayors and physicians, to Grace Mary Linn, who spent 30 years here teaching English and Latin, there are more than a handful of people who have made Bend what it is today.
The board may choose whatever name it wishes for any school, however, and that’s the way it should be. But if it asks the public to weigh in on the matter, it should keep that same public in the loop when it chooses to go another way.