EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Schenck High School will not be renamed anytime soon, School Committee Chairman Dan Byron said Wednesday.
The decided unpopularity of renaming the school will likely keep the idea of renaming the school, as suggested in a Jan. 3 letter from resident Paul Baker, off the table, Byron said.
“I really don’t want to comment on it very much. We may touch on it again but I don’t expect that it will go anywhere,” Byron said Wednesday of the proposal. “People were unhappy about [the idea of] renaming the school and we represent the people’s wishes. I would say that it is a moot point, at this point.”
The school board, which had originally decided to discuss the matter at its Feb. 4 meeting, never placed it on the agenda, Superintendent Quenten Clark said.
Baker had written in his letter that renaming the school to honor the Mackenzie family would be fitting, given Gloria Mackenzie’s donation of $1.8 million to the school for a host of much-needed repairs, including a new roof.
Gloria Mackenzie collected a lump sum of $370.9 million that totaled $278 million after taxes when the Florida resident and East Millinocket native bought a winning Powerball ticket on June 5, 2013. She donated $1 million of a total $1.8 million to the high school in November. The rest of the donation would likely come when the work begins or immediately after its completion. The repairs are supposed to begin by next summer, officials have said.
Baker said his proposal was not intended to convey disrespect to the Schenck name. Just as Garret Schenck Jr.’s sizeable donation prompted the school’s present moniker, so should Gloria MacKenzie’s family be honored for their donation, he said.
He also believes the name change would benefit the community because the current name is often mispronounced as an offensive slang term, he has said.
But Mackenzie’s son, Scott, vetoed the idea in communications with school officials and in a brief statement he issued last week. School officials still hope to honor the Mackenzies for their donation in another way.
Clark said he would like to see the high school’s name changed back to Garrett Schenck Jr. High School. This would, he said, continue to honor the Schenck family’s work during the early 20th century, which largely created the Katahdin region’s two paper mills, employing residents for generations and drawing national acclaim. It would also, Clark said, perhaps deflect at least some of the confusion over Schenck and what it means.
An effort by the Board of Selectmen on Jan. 27 to support keeping the high school’s name failed. Selectmen Clint Linscott and Mark Marston voted for it, but Selectwoman Kelley Michaud, Selectman Jim Jamo and Chairman Gary MacLeod voted against the idea.