By Justin Vick
The Cabarrus County Board of Education has named a new middle school scheduled to open just outside Harrisburg town limits in 2010. It will be called “Hickory Ridge Middle School.”
Several school board members, including chairwoman Holly Blackwelder, said it made sense to keep the name of the middle school consistent with the existing high school, considering both will share the same campus on Hickory Ridge Road.
But the decision wasn’t unanimous.
Carolyn Carpenter and Andrea Palo said they based their dissenting votes on the feedback received from nomination forms submitted by the community, which they said were overwhelmingly in favor of Harrisburg Middle School.
Harrisburg Mayor Tim Haigler had also presented to the school board a resolution passed by the Town Council calling for the middle school to be named after Harrisburg.
Palo said the school board’s decision sends the wrong message to the community at a time when Cabarrus County Schools is asking residents to become stakeholders. Carpenter called it much worse.
“I feel in a way that was a slap in the face to the people of Harrisburg,” Carpenter said. “Harrisburg Middle School is what the individuals in the community wanted. I really felt that’s what it should be.”
Wayne Williams countered that school board members are elected to use their knowledge and experience to do what’s best for the system, not necessarily a small group of constituents.
“I think the precedent was set when Northwest Cabarrus middle and high schools were built adjacent to each other,” Williams said. “They carried the same name and that’s probably going to be the path we follow from now on when we build middle schools adjacent to high schools to share facilities and construction costs.”
The naming of Hickory Ridge High School two years ago proved to be controversial, as some Harrisburg residents mounted a campaign to rename the school after the town.
Neither Carpenter nor Palo were on the board when members named Hickory Ridge High School, though once installed, they tried to get them to reconsider after hearing feedback from the community.
Holly Blackwelder said she didn’t hear such sentiment prior to that 2006 vote. The feedback she did hear, however, favored a more neutral name since enrollment would consist of several students who did not live in Harrisburg.
Lynn Shue was the only board member to vote against naming the high school after the road in 2006, because he thought it should have been named after the town. But his vote Monday went toward Hickory Ridge Middle to maintain consistency.
“If the board had seen fit to name the high school ‘Harrisburg High School’ then, it would have been fitting to name the middle school that,” Shue said. “There would have been no question.”
• Contact reporter Justin Vick: 704-789-9138.