New Trier Could Name Facilities After Donors
Proposed policy would allow New Trier Township High School District 203 school board to consider naming rights for people who donate more than half the cost of a major project
Want to get something named after you at New Trier High School?
It’s not going to happen, unless you’re a staff member who gave extraordinary service to the school and retired at least five years ago.
But that could change, under a proposed policy that the New Trier Township High School District 203 school board discussed at their May 21 school board meeting at the school’s Northfield Campus. The school also has a campus in Winnetka.
The proposed policy, which covers donations and advertising on school property, starts with a statement of philosophy that makes clear that the district does not want any advertising or donations to impact what students are taught:
“The intent of the district is to minimize the impact of commercialism on students. Donations or commercial advertisements should never influence curriculum or instruction at New Trier, nor should teachers feel pressure to present viewpoints or beliefs as the result of a donation, gift, or advertisement. There should be no appearance of impropriety as a result of a donation, gift or advertisement.”
A committee that was formed to discuss the policy actually spent more time talking about the advertising section, which prohibits any commercial messages that students would be exposed to during the school day. Some limited, preapproved advertising – say, in a sports program – would be allowed at extracurricular events.
But it was the naming policy that drew most of the discussion, including a statement from Wilmette resident Brooke Conkey, who addressed the board during the public comment section of the meeting,
“I care deeply about my school and I didn’t know it was for sale,” said Conkey, a 1982 graduate of New Trier. Naming facilities “is an honor and should recognize someone for their contributions to our district in every other way except financially.”
Board members generally seemed to approve of the idea of allowing major donors to be recognized, as long as the possibility comes with caveats, including that the school board has the right to turn down anyone who wants to donate in order to have their name on a building or other facility.
“We by no means want New Trier to be for sale,” said board member Peter Fischer, who served on the committee that formulated the proposed policy. “But philanthropy is a legitimate part of society. Not every wealthy person or corporation is necessarily evil because they want to donate to our school. We have no idea whether anyone will ever take advantage of this, or if it would even apply. It’s never happened before.”
The earliest the board can vote on the policy is at its next meeting, June 4.
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