SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

July 2, 2013

Our view: Schools for sale in Peabody

School leaders are paid to find ways to provide the youth of local communities with an excellent education while keeping the cost of that schooling as reasonable as possible. So, it’s good to see Peabody School Committee members casting about for ways to ease the burden on taxpayers. We only wish they had focused more on keeping spending in check than considering new ways to offer the schools to corporations and other private businesses.

At issue is the idea of corporate sponsorship and “naming rights” — the idea that a business making a substantial-enough donation can have its name attached to a stadium, football field, building wing or other school property.

“In these tough economic times, we have to look at different options,” Mayor Ted Bettencourt said last week.

Private or corporate donations could provide vital cash, he said. “I’m not saying we have to do this, but it would be a mistake not to look into it.”

At least Beverley Griffin Dunne has shown a willingness to keep her fellow committee members from going too far in pursuit of extra cash.

Griffin Dunne told reporter Alan Burke that selling corporate naming rights “would be selling the soul of our schools. Very rarely do you hear me say, ‘I’m going to fight on this,’ but this time, I do say it.”

At the very least, the School Committee needs to proceed with caution and a skeptical mind. Peabody has a long tradition of honoring the city’s veterans through its schools.

“Our policy is a very firm one at the high school,” Griffin Dunne said. “Everything at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School needs to be named after a veteran. The football field, for example, is named for Coley Lee, a Vietnam veteran who died after exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange.”

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