After more discussion Wednesday evening, the Napoleon Area City Schools Board of Education approved renaming the high school gymnasium floor the Fred Church Court.
The change was approved 3-0, with board members Frank Cashman, Ty Otto and Marcia Bruns voting in favor. Board members Michael Wesche and Rob Rettig abstained from the vote, although both noted their concerns were not regarding Church himself, but about the naming of district facilities.
Steve Mossing, a 1972 graduate of NHS and a community member, addressed the board in May with the request, which he said was previously brought to then-Superintendent Dr. Stephen Fogo and it was denied by the board, but he asked the request be revisited. At that time, Fogo said the request was originally denied in following with a board practice set approximately two years ago, when the field turf was installed, that they would not permanently name any of the facilities.
When the issue was revisited in August, Wesche stated he believes a facility constructed with public funds should not be privatized, there are already established ways of special recognition for accomplishments and tenure in the district that do not include naming of facilities and there is no established criteria to decide who would receive additional recognition. The issue was tabled at that time.
On Wednesday, Superintendent Erik Belcher said they established guidelines regarding commemorations and how requests will be handled.
“That created a form that Mr. Mossing and others will be able to fill out and submit to the superintendent and then the superintendent puts together a committee,” Belcher said.
To discuss Church’s proposal, the committee included Belcher, junior/senior high school principal Ryan Wilde, athletics director Andy Ham, two board members and two community members.
“We met and talked about how important of a decision this is,” Belcher said. “With that, the committee recommended to move forward and bring this forward for the board’s approval.”
The design has already been approved, and Belcher said they are hoping to move quickly to have the design on the court for the upcoming basketball season.
The initial cost for the design has been raised by a group of community members led by Mossing, and Belcher said an account will be established for the court.
“... We’re going to try to raise $3,000 a year to keep this going on, so when we have to redo the floor and all those things, it’s going to be a pretty significant contribution to Fred Church Court,” Belcher said. “I want to thank Mr. Mossing, I want to thank everybody else, the other committee members who took this the way they did and how serious of thing it was.
“We do not take that very lightly at all and how important it is for the community and the school,” he continued.
Wesche said he appreciates the work done on the guidelines.
“That time was well spent under the superintendent’s leadership as we now have a policy and a process and guidelines for doing so,” he said.
However, he said his feelings on the matter are unchanged.
“I still do not believe that a long-ago constructed public facility, which was constructed and paid for with public monies, should be named for a private individual person,” he said. “Rather I believe that public property ... belongs to the public, to everyone and should not be privatized.
“Since our last meeting, I have heard from many people in our community who feel the same way,” he continued. “The only exception I would make is when there’s a substantial contribution made of labor, materials or monies for the construction, renovation or maintenance of the public facility.”
Wesche said it appears there’s been a promise that there will be a financial contribution toward the maintenance of the gym floor and, while he said it was a concern that the agreement was not included in the official board motion, he would not oppose the issue.
“I’m trusting that these contributions will be made as promised and that the superintendent and treasurer will see to that,” Wesche said. “While I do not support the naming of the gym floor as the chosen method to honor Mr. Church and his accomplishments, I do support the effort to honor him.”
However, Wesche noted while these requests are often accompanied by a lot of passion, he feels the board needs to focus on the long-term capital needs and resources of the district.
“My hope is that the board tonight will not establish a precedent that we will come to regret,” he said.
Rettig said he largely concurs with Wesche’s comments.
“These kind of things concern me as a precedent unless you’re looking at a great community good like Buckenmeyer Stadium — named after an individual but as part of a big capital drive,” Rettig said.
However, Rettig said the district’s goal is education and one of things they try to teach students, especially in a team sport, is to be selfless.
“We don’t do anything for our personal glory,” he said, adding there have been countless staff members over the years who have made many contributions and families who continually volunteer to help with sports venues, PTA and clubs without recognition. “I feel a little awkward about this kind of recognition on an ad hoc basis when I think we really need to be teaching each other is that we do these things because we care about people and kids.
“For that concern, I will probably abstain, but I do really commend the committee for the process and I support Mr. Belcher tremendously, I appreciate the policy and the committee,” he continued. “I believe in the democratic process so if I’m in the minority, I’m gladly in the minority, it just is what it is and we go on.”
Mossing thanked the committee that worked on the proposal and the board.
“I do respect the opinions of all of you, so thank you,” he said.
At the May meeting, Mossing relayed some of Church’s accomplishments, including teaching physical education for 25 years and coaching basketball, football and track. His tenure as head boys basketball coach was 424-232, including numerous league, sectional and district titles and a state championship.
During the visitor portion of the meeting, Tootie Bockelman asked what differentiated this naming request from the one made by Moe Brubaker’s family to have the press box named after him after he passed away.
Cashman said the monetary contribution is a large piece of the difference, while Belcher added that is the first time the new process has been utilized.
“This goes to the heart of what we talked about before — we had no guidelines,” Belcher said. “Each situation was handled differently, and that’s what the guidelines are going to do — it’s going to help the board in the future be able to have a process already in place.
“This was the first time we had that process in place, so I can’t speak for past ... all we can do is, going forward, how we will be handling things in the future,” he added.