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Gwinnett group questions naming of 2 schools for board members

Gwinnett County Schools board member Dr. Robert McClure is shown at the last school board meeting where he voted to name a new school after himself. CASEY SYKES / ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Gwinnett County Schools board member Dr. Robert McClure is shown at the last school board meeting where he voted to name a new school after himself. CASEY SYKES / ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Two former Gwinnett County school board members, in their final meeting, voted to name new schools after themselves, and members of the community are questioning the procedure.

The board voted to name two new high schools after outgoing members Dr. Robert McClure and Dan Seckinger. Many in the community wondered why the decision was made without community input, had to be made at that time, and if other names had been considered.

Black Men United for Children & Humanity, a countywide advocacy group, raised those questions in a letter sent to the board by email Monday.

“Numerous citizens and employees of GCPS have approached (us) … with grave concerns regarding the lack of transparency and questionable ethics that were used during the recent school-naming process,” the letter stated. “Frankly, it appears as if you did not follow your own policy for naming facilities.”

It went on to ask for an explanation of why the board violated four procedures:

  • No facility shall be named after a current, full-time or part-time employee.
  • The first consideration of the Board in name selections shall be the honor and integrity which the name will reflect on the school.
  • A committee of administrative staff will be charged with the task of developing a list of recommended names for the theme or specialty school.
  • Consideration will be given to individuals who have made a significant social contribution to the county.

Although the board hasn’t responded to BMUCH, a school district spokeswoman said “the Board of Education has the prerogative to set aside its normal practices and procedures.”

It did adhere to state law by voting on the names in open session.

The vote was to name the new theme high school opening in the Meadowcreek Cluster, McClure Health Science High School and the new theme high school opening in the Mill Creek Cluster, Seckinger High School. According to meeting minutes the vote was 5-0.

“Both Dr. McClure and Mr. Seckinger are long-time public servants and the Board felt it appropriate to recognize their 24 years of service to the school district and the Gwinnett community. The naming of schools for School Board members is not a new practice as evidenced by the number of them named in honor of School Board members (ex. Alford, Britt, and Norton elementary schools, and Radloff Middle School),” said school district spokeswoman Sloan Roach in a written statement. “It is not unprecedented for the Gwinnett Board of Education to name a facility after a sitting superintendent. Harris Elementary opened in November of 1966. In January of 1967, Superintendent B.B. Harris gave the School Board notice that he would resign as superintendent as of July 1. He was appointed principal of the school that bears his name later that year.”

James Taylor, president of BMUCH, and a former Gwinnett County Schools employee, said some question whether Seckinger, who was arrested in 2010 for failure to pay child support, was the best candidate but many of the people he spoke to were more upset that the school district didn't follow its own procedures.

“We just want transparency,” said Taylor. “We aren’t accusing the BOE of anything, we simply wanted clarity.”