Citizen’s Petition on Renaming Stony Brook School is ‘Awkward and Embarrassing’

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At first glance Article 25 of the annual Town Meeting warrant was confusing.

But when Kristi Bates stood up to explain why she submitted it, she caught the ire of George Murray, who interpreted her proposal as unflattering.

The 25 article warrant has six citizen’s petitions. Among them is one filed by Bates who asks voters to rename the Millennium building in honor of Superintendent Everett V. Olsen Jr.

But the sub-committee of the School Committee had already filed an article seeking to rename the Stony Brook School in recognition of Olsen.

The Millennium building is a temporary modular structure nearing the end of its usefulness. The Stony Brook School was built in the early 2000s and is an architectural triumph that was built to last for decades.

“It seems to me we always manage to bugger up naming tasks, and I feel very uneasy about this whole thing,” said Murray. “There’s nobody who has given more to this town, is as dedicated and has had a longer record of doing it than Bill has. In my mind there’s no question about it.”

Murray said he’d served on the committee that hired Olsen.

“To throw this out at Town Meeting and let’s have this big debate — it seems to me this should have been done ahead of time, a consensus developed on it and then brought to Town Meeting with a recommendation,” Murray said.

Bates is determined to keep Stony Brook as the building’s name. The School Committee voted recently to move the petition to Town Meeting where another vote will be taken by the School Committee to see whether the members will recommend the name change. An amended petition will specify the school’s name as the Everett V. Olsen Jr. Middle School at Stony Brook and a second amendment who have it kick in upon Olsen’s retirement, said School Committee Chairman Avery Adam.

George Murray. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

“We have been back and forth on this…It was brought to us by the Naming Committee. We felt that it was worthy of going to Town Meeting…we wanted to hear what the people say so we moved it along…” said School Committee Chairman Avery Adam.

Bates soldiered on in defense of Article 25.

“The reason I brought the Citizen’s Petition is because Stony Brook is a name with a lot of traditions,” she said. “And I thought to honor Mr. Olsen it would be nice to have him on the new administration building.”

The petition calls for the name to transfer to “any subsequent School Department administration building.”

Kristi Bates. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

Because the Millennium will have to be vacated eventually, town officials are searching for other locations to house school administrative staff members. Bates’ petition would skirt the Stony Brook renaming and eventually link Olsen’s name to a permanent building.

Selectman Chairman Mark Kost, who sat on a panel with Town Manager Jodi Ross, League Moderator Bob Price, and Finance Director Dan O’Donnell, said efforts had been ongoing for a few weeks to resolve the matter, but to no avail.

“They haven’t been able to come to a consensus,” said Kost.

Bates said the discussions involved Adam and Naming Committee Chairman James Antonelli, and did not include her.

Murray spared no words.

“I just think this is awkward and embarrassing for all concerned,” he said.

The Remaining Citizen’s Petitions:

Article 16 — Authorize the Board of Selectmen to Amend the Agricultural Preservation Restriction at 66-68 Boston Road to allow the construction of a restaurant.

Article 17 — Require the town to publicly bid the development rights of 66-68 Boston Road in accordance with MGL 184 Chapter 30B Section 16.

Article 18 — Establish a policy to limit the use of artificial lights at recreational spaces from dusk to 10 p.m.

Article 19 — Amend section 58 of the town bylaws to establish new requirements and limitations for the possession and consumption of alcohol on any public property.

Article 20 — Amend Chapter 1 of the town bylaws: penalties for violating bylaws and regulations.

UPDATE: Information in this story was corrected as follows: The School Committee voted to move Article 25 to Town Meeting. The vote did not indicate support for the school’s renaming. Meetings to resolve the differences did not include Bates. The meetings included Adam and Antonelli with members of the School Committee.