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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 ?

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 . The school also has a campus in .

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.”

Earlier:

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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Janice MacVicasr May 22, 2012 at 01:52 PM
As a graduate of New Trier (class of 1978) and a mother of an incoming freshman, I think this is a brilliant idea. The fact is that the school needs money and the taxpayers are tapped out. If some individuals would like to give to the school and be recognized in some way, I think it is a great alternative. It has proved very successful at a charter school that I am involved with in the city as well as countless other schools and universities around the country. Bravo, school board. Janice Mabie MacVicar
Chi-an Chang May 22, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Janice, thanks for sharing your perspective!
Chi-an Chang May 22, 2012 at 04:37 PM
A reader emailed and wrote, "This is such a bad idea. Really trashy! Time to vote this school board out."
Janice MacVicasr May 22, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I don't understand what is "trashy" about it. We need the money. Where will it come from?
Joni Johnson May 23, 2012 at 12:50 AM
I wouldn't call the proposed policy "trashy", but I do have concerns about it. I, too, am an alum, and my children have all attended NT (one is still there). I think it would be more appropriate to recognize donors on brick pavers, a plaque, benches, trees or even individual rooms (such as a science lab, a music performance space, etc.) rather than entire buildings. Donors should not be motivated by this kind of "carrot". And, the New Trier Educational Foundation (I'm not sure that is the official name) is perhaps a more appropriate recipient of larger contributions.
Dan May 23, 2012 at 05:30 AM
Wait don't universities do the same thing? Major contributors get the campus buildings named after them. Nothing wrong with it at the university level, so I imagine a college prep high school such as New Trier could handle some wealthy donations.

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