Why District 15 is waiting to rename school after retiring Superintendent Thompson

Palatine Township Elementary District 15 board members Wednesday night agreed to seek more community feedback before deciding whether to honor retiring Superintendent Scott Thompson by placing his name on a school later this year.

District 15's elected officials were set to vote on the proposal to rename Lake Louise Elementary School in Palatine for Thompson, but they agreed to postpone the decision until a meeting next month at the suggestion of board member Frank Annerino.

Annerino said he heard from several District 15 residents who didn't agree with having Thompson's name replace Lake Louise on the building and were surprised it appeared on the meeting agenda. He said the initial emails and other feedback he's received has been negative, so delaying the vote to Feb. 13 will give those on both sides of the issue more time to contact elected officials.

“A lot of constituents have concern with regards to the costs,” Annerino said after Wednesday's meeting. “That was brought up to me by several individuals. So, what I'm looking to do is get a detailed cost estimate as to what it would take to change the name of the school, what would be involved with regard to whether it be spirit wear, stationery and other miscellaneous things.”

District 15 board President Lisa Szczupaj said she backs the renaming of Lake Louise Elementary for Thompson. Of 23 district buildings, 13 have been named for people who have significance at local and national levels.

Szczupaj said Lake Louise doesn't have a significant meaning behind it, which makes it an appropriate school to have Thompon's name as a replacement. The idea, she said, was agreed on by a committee of administrators and employees.

Lake Louise Elementary was named for the subdivision around the school and the lake there. Under the proposal, Lake Louise would bear Thompson's name a day after his retirement is effective June 30.

Only one resident spoke on the issue during public comment time. Miguel Ruiz Herrera was against the idea, saying Lake Louise Elementary has meaning, especially in what will be its 50th anniversary this year.

“We are in the city of the Sears Tower,” he said of the downtown Chicago building that became the Willis Tower. “It will always be the Sears Tower.”

Szczupaj said the honor would be fitting for Thompson, citing his achievements over his nine years at District 15 such as launching a Spanish dual-language initiative, expanding preschool classrooms and reducing food insecurity among students through a free summer meals program. She said Lake Louise employees heard about the proposed name change earlier this week in a meeting and it was well-received.

Thompson said he's humbled by the proposed honor and called it representative of a team effort during his time at District 15. He said he was not disappointed the school board postponed the vote.

“They all had very complimentary things to say, so that was very nice,” Thompson said.

Thompson was hired in July 2010 as the district's interim superintendent after Dan Lukich was ousted and given a $185,000 severance. Thompson received the job on a permanent basis later that year, starting with a $198,000 base salary that's grown to about $285,000.

He announced in 2015 that he intended to retire after completing a four-year contract.

Four former District 15 superintendents — John Conyers, Frank Whiteley, Marion Jordan and Joseph Kiszka — have their names on buildings. Previous school board members Gray M. Sanborn and Walter Sundling were honored the same way.

Others whose names are on district buildings include Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson, poet Carl Sandburg and Stuart R. Paddock, a former Daily Herald publisher who contributed to and promoted excellence in education.

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