Platte County School Board vote goes in direction of Compass Elementary

With only six voting members, the issue of determining the name of the district’s new school building became an issue for the Platte County R-3 School board. A work session produced a split vote, and the split remained during the regular session, prompting further discussion. Eventually, the board voted 4-2 in favor of Compass Elementary for the under-construction Platte City facility, going along with the school name committee’s top pick, and the name then received unanimous approval.

Compass and Compass Point were given to the board as a joint option, and those won out over Tina Zubeck Elementary and North Star Elementary. The split vote came when trying to separate the two similar options, which the naming committee tabbed as the first and fourth choice, with board member Gary Brown absent.

North Star, which was quickly eliminated by the board due to the directional quality, was the No. 2 choice of the name committee with Tina Zubeck, the most submitted suggestion, was No. 3.

The district received about 300 suggestions from the public, although many were eliminated by the basic guidelines of the search. The name committee, consisting of 15 members, then met last month to review the submitted choices and rank a top five. The last naming initiative for the district came for the opening of Pathfinder in 2008 under a similar process. A student submitted the name chosen.

Committee members included district residents, faculty and three students.

With the committee suggesting two similar names in Compass and Compass Point, they were given as a joint option. Discussion on the two names involved the aesthetics, mostly how the name sounded. Some argued that Compass seemed too short and like a nickname, according to board member and naming committee participant Lenora Miles said, while Compass Point sounded more formal.

However, the board eventually decided to lean toward the naming committee’s recommendation since Compass received the most votes with Compass Point at No. 4.

“Obviously, they put a lot of time and effort into it,” board member Steve Goettling said during the open session discussion that helped sway one unspecified voter to change his or her choice to Compass. “I think everybody agrees that they preferenced Compass over Compass Point, and the whole reason why I chose Compass was because that’s what they brought back to us.”

The decision to exclude Zubeck’s name proved tough but included hesitancy to bypass other people who have significantly contributed to R-3’s history. However, the board discussed trying to honor her memory in another way, and early indications have the library in the new elementary school being named in her honor. An influential employee of the school for more than two decades, Zubeck died in the summer of 2014 after a second battle with cancer.

Platte County superintendent Dr. Mike Reik suggested naming the new library the “Tina S. Zubeck Inspiration Center,” a nod both to her personal qualities and the school’s education goals.

“I think she would be the first to recognize that there were so many other deserving people that came before her, and that’s part of what made Tina special,” Reik said. “I think by moving toward that end, we’re balancing the community’s desire to make sure we’re not failing to recognize the contributions of many deserving people, but at the same time, we are honoring someone who provided great contributions to our district, locally here but also at the state and national level as Tina did.

“As usual, if you trust in a collaborative process and our community, in the end, we will make the right decision, and I think that’s the case here.”

Options ranged from abstract to historical figures and people tied to the district. Many on the list were repeat entries. Those that were most common included Duncan for the name of the property the new school sits on, Rising Star in a nod to the existing kindergarten building set to be closed after this year and Compass, a symbol the district uses in many of its logos.

The historical names included those with no real tie to the area like Lincoln, Washington and Einstein and those with a more direct relationship to the region like Disney, Amelia Earhart and Zaddock “Zed” Martin — founder of Platte City.

Former teachers and personnel for the district suggested were Donald J. Boller, Cheryl Jaros, Bunny Fulk, Mark Harpst, Chip Sherman and Zubeck.

Committee members were given criteria for making their selections. The district recommended that the name unify the district and community, provide an inspiration to students, stand the test of time, not be based on cities, townships or municipalities, not be similar to another school in the area and lend dignity and stature to the school while supporting the district’s vision, mission and values.

Reik also excluded Paxton as an option because the district plans to keep that name for the building soon to be annexed into the high school.

That annexation is part of a $29 million capital improvement project — the most notable piece the new elementary school located off of Fourth Street on district-owned land known as the Duncan Farm property. Voters approved a $0.43 tax levy increase during the April general municipal election that will fund the new building in Platte City along with renovations to Paxton School and Pathfinder Elementary.

In addition to the name, board members received an update on the building process with Reik informing them that interior walls have started to go up. The nearby Kentucky Avenue extension also continues to take shape with much of the road closest to the location now having a gravel outline.

JT Thomas, director of transportation services, also provided an update on the district’s bus service so far this school year, including results of a patron satisfaction survey. While the expanding district geography along with untimely construction has increased average ride times, strong gains were made in the perceived safety on bus rides from parents and students.

In addition, the district increased its efficiency to 105.5 percent, about 20 percent better than two years ago, while also nearing benchmarks for average capacity and fleet inspection.