The West Bloomfield Schools Board of Education at its Monday, Aug. 29 meeting upheld an original decision to change the name of one of the district’s elementary schools from Green Elementary School to Sheiko Elementary School.
Trustee Matt Chase made a motion on Monday to rescind the name change, which was seconded by Trustee Melanie Torbert, but the motion was struck down by a 5-2 vote.
The name change was originally approved by the board at its June 13 meeting by a 6-0 vote, with Torbert abstaining.
Board Vice President Bruce Tobin made the motion for the name change last June in honor of Kathy Sheiko, who was Green Elementary’s principal for 26 years before she retired at the end of the 2010-11 school year.
“She was extraordinary. She was deeply involved in the welfare of every student. She knew each of them by name as well as their siblings and parents,” Tobin said.
“She also mentored over a thousand teachers and administrators over the years.”
Tobin added that the District Media Center has now been named the Green Media Center.
However, some residents spoke out against the renaming of the school at Monday’s meeting. Members of the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society and descendants of the Green family have also objected to the name change.
Tobin said that no disrespect was intended towards the Green family.
“The one-room school house that served as Green School on Green Road was sold long ago and developed as part of a subdivision,” Tobin said.
“Land that was purchased from the Green building to build a larger school later became the district media center when a third building was constructed on land that was purchased and ultimately named Green school.
“The second building now has the Green name restored and is now the Green Media Center.”
“The objection is two-fold,” Chase said. “I think that with a name change of a historic building in our school district, we should have allowed for public comments prior to the decision. This is not about Shieko being a great administrator, this is just about the proper way to honor an employee. It wasn’t on the agenda (on June 13) and I don’t think there’s huge public support behind the name change.”
Buzz Brown, president of the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society, also spoke at the Aug. 29 meeting, voicing his displeasure with the name change.
“To paraphrase a former teacher of Green Lake school who wrote a letter, you don’t honor one person by dishonoring another,” Brown said. “For a handful of school board members, they don’t understand their history, they haven’t been here long enough, they haven’t even been in the (Historical Society) museum to learn about the history.
Brown added that in the early days of West Bloomfield, long before there was a school district, it was a farming community and children of the farmers and the farmers’ employees needed to be educated.
“So it was very common for the owner of the farm to create their own school, which the Green family did,” he said. “They built it with a log cabin, they provided the land, they hired the teachers, and they bought all the supplies that were necessary to educate the kids in that immediate area around the farm. Quite often, the school just took on the name of the farmer that created the school and in this case, it was Green School. As the community got bigger and there was a need for a school district, these little schools were gathered up and school districts were created and it was not unusual for the name of the school to be carried on.”
Brown said that the school name was a great teaching moment for kids to understand the legacy of how the school district got started, and that the name change is setting a bad example for students.
“When you see falling test scores in social studies, you can see it. I feel sorry for the staff,” Brown said.
Calls to Torbert were not returned prior of press time.