By SHERIDAN ROY
After a petition from the community was brought forth, a five-member ad-hoc committee was charged with determining if it was appropriate to re-name a school facility after the late Zaya A. Oshana. The committee determined that he met the qualifications, and they recommended to the superintendent that South End Elementary School be named “The Zaya A. Oshana School at South End Elementary School.”
The ad-hoc committee, made up of three sitting BOE members and two people who helped submit the original petition, considered three schools as possibilities—South End, Flanders and Plantsville Elementary Schools. A public hearing brought out PTO members, students and parents of all three schools. Many who spoke out were concerned about the schools’ histories, along with school pride and personal time invested into the schools.
“This is not an easy discussion,” said former superintendent Angelo Coppola, who was involved with the original petition. He said parents get involved in their children’s schools, and make personal investments. “Zaya invested in schools as well. He left us with much good—much of which still exists today.”
Coppola said naming a school after Oshana would be a permanent reminder of the kind of role model kids should have. Oshana spent 34 years as an active BOE member, was a teacher, a vice principal, a professor at the University of Hartford, a member of the local Kiwanis Club, Grid Iron Club, was a PTO president at DePaolo Middle School, and more.
Beecher Lajoie, a former Thalberg Elementary School principal, said naming a school after an individual sets high goals for the school and gives momentum to students. “Zaya served the community unselfishly for decades,” he said. “I haven’t met anyone else in my life like him.”
BOE member Patricia Queen said Plantsville and Flanders Elementary Schools were considered, but ultimately South End was decided upon. The name of Plantsville Elementary School was found to have historical significance, as Plantsville is named after the Plants brothers. And, while the community of Flanders Elementary School seemed to be receptive to the name change, a recent population study provided to the BOE by Milone & MacBroom found that Flanders school may close some time in the next few years.
“With the possibility of Flanders closing, according to the report, it may not be the best fit,” said Queen. “It’s too up in the air of what will happen there.”
Though South End has historical significance dating back to the revolutionary times, the committee said the significance is still maintained and honored in the original schoolhouse that still stands. The committee however did recommend to keep “South End” in the name of the school.
“Zaya is deserving of this honor, but we are also aware of the difficult decision we have when people have an allegiance to a school and its name,” said Terri Carmody, BOE member who chairs the ad-hoc committee. “It becomes emotional.”
Carmody pointed out that, while the many emails, phone calls and comments received were equally divided in support or against the re-naming, not one person had anything negative to say about Oshana.
Superintendent Tim Connellan will bring the recommendation forth to the Board of Education on June 20. The name-change would require a two-thirds vote of the board in order to pass. The BOE is not bound to the name recommended by the ad-hoc committee, but they can choose to change the name entirely if they desire.
The BOE is not tied financially to the responsibility of changing the name if it is approved by the BOE. Funds for changing signage would be raised by those requesting the name change.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.