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Board may consider name change

By Staff | Dec 31, 2008

It’s not uncommon to rename a school after a historical figure. One Tyler County school already sports the name of a native son: Arthur I. Boreman Elementary School, named for the first governor of State of West Virginia elected in 1863.

With the recent death of Tyler County native and two-time Governor Cecil H. Underwood, should one of the county’s schools be named for him?

Substitute teacher Phyllis Dieterich thinks so.

She recently presented her case to the Tyler County Board of Education, which could consider the matter in the near future.

Dieterich recognizes the impact that former Governor Underwood had on Tyler County.

“He was the youngest governor, the oldest governor, one of the best governors, and he is from Tyler County,” said Dieterich. “He was a well-liked person; I don’t think I ever heard a word of criticism about the man in my life.”

Former Governor Cecil Harland Underwood, 86, died Nov. 24 due to health complications at the Charleston Area Medical Center’s Memorial Hospital. Underwood was preceded in death by former First Lady Hovah Underwood in 2004.

Underwood served Tyler County and West Virginia as the 25th and 34th governor and earned the distinction of being both the youngest and oldest governor. Underwood was born in Joseph Mills Nov. 5, 1922, and was educated at Tyler County High School.

Naming a school after former Gov. Underwood would also pay tribute to his teaching career prior to government service.

He taught high school in St. Marys from 1943 to 1946 and he taught at Marietta College from 1946 to 1950. He went back to his alma mater as President of Salem College from 1950 to 1956.

“We already have one school named for a former governor from Tyler County, so I think it’s appropriate that we name one after (Underwood),” said Dieterich.

It’s an issue that the Tyler County Schools administration wants to discuss and get input on before any school’s name is changed. Superintendent Jeff Hoover says the topic will be looked at in the coming months.

“As a matter of fact, the board will be having a winter retreat – which is almost like a staff development session for the board – to bring them up to speed on things and give them a chance to talk informally,” said Hoover. “It will be held on the 31st of January and one of the topics will be that request.”

The renaming of a school can be a testy subject and can upset people. Hoover says the school board will want to broach the subject carefully. We understand the request, but we also have to remember that the naming of each one of the schools has a history in itself as well,” explained Hoover.

“Sistersville Elementary -which Mrs. Dieterich had mentioned – was named something before it was Sistersville Elementary. I believe it was called Meadowview Elementary School. I don’t know how long it was named that; that was before I came to the county. There was a groundswell of support in the Sistersville area to name it Sistersville Elementary. Normally, after those kinds of groundswell incidents, boards of education shy away from trying to change it again.”

While the issue is something the board could vote on without input, Hoover says it is more likely that the board would hold public meetings to gauge public support for renaming a school.

“I have to admit this is new ground for us, so I’m not sure how the board would want to proceed with it, to be perfectly honest. I don’t think it would be something where unilaterally the five board members just make a decision on it because it affects the entire community,” said Hoover. “I think it would be a good guess to say yes, there would be local input in on this before a decision would be made.”

As for where the public currently stands on such a renaming, both Dieterich and Hoover are unsure. That is something both parties say they’d be willing to work on.

“At this point I haven’t gotten any indication from (the board) whether they’re considering this or not,” said Hoover.

“I know they look at it the same way as Mrs. Dieterich and I, and that is Cecil Underwood was an important part of Tyler County history. Personally that is the only thing I’ve heard. Nobody has mentioned it to me at all other than (Dieterich), so I don’t know if it’s out there or not, to be frank.”

“I have not discussed it with a lot of people,” added Dieterich. “Those I have discussed it with, 99 percent say ‘I think that’s a good idea.’ I don’t know what public reaction would be. If (the board) wanted volunteers to approach community organizations to make presentations, I would be glad to volunteer and am sure we would be able to find others who would do that.”