Historical ties: Oxford asks BOE to keep Palmer Stone in city of origin

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

OXFORD -- The Oxford City Council is hoping to keep the name Palmer Stone in the community of its origin.

The council members have developed a resolution asking the Newton County Board of Education to allow the name Palmer Stone to remain associated with the location of Oxford's only elementary school and not be used for any other school in any other location.

"It's historically tied to the city of Oxford," said Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry.

The school, which was built in 1955, was named after James Palmer and George W. W. Stone, professors at Emory College who helped charter what was originally the Palmer Institute in 1860; Stone's father Harry Harlan Stone served as president of the Newton County Board of Education for 40 years in the early part of the 20th century.

Roseberry said it surprised him and some other residents to learn that some members of the Newton County Board of Education have decided to move the name Palmer Stone Elementary School to the new elementary school being built on Airport Road near Ga. Highway 142.

School board chair Cathy Dobbs said Friday that although the school board hasn't yet voted on the name of the school, she would prefer the name move to the new school, as the school's population is moving to the new school, along with some other students as a result of rezoning next school year.

"Palmer Stone has been a name associated with the Newton County School System for many years," Dobbs said. "We want to continue to honor the men who were educators."

She said that most of the student population at Palmer Stone Elementary School live outside of the Oxford city limits. Additionally, she said many Newton County residents graduated from Palmer Stone School upward of about 50 years ago.

"I don't think we should be restricted from using the name," she said. "We are not wanting to take anything away from the historical significance of the school."

Some Oxford City Council members and members of the Oxford Planning Commission also did not understand why the school board would name a new school after individuals, which a board policy prohibits.

According to Policy FDC, the Newton County Board of Education is responsible for naming new facilities of the district. Consideration for naming a school facility after an individual, living or deceased, may be considered if land was donated by the individual or the individual's family and such land was accepted by the board for the purpose of constructing a school facility or if an individual or individual's family donates the money to purchase land or construct a school facility and such money was accepted by the board for that purpose.

"This is a name that is being used -- it would be a transfer," Dobbs said in response to the criticism.

Oxford City Councilman Hoyt Oliver has suggested that the school board name the new school Flint Hill Elementary School -- in the late 1800s the Flint Hill community was located in the area with Flint Hill Academy.

"It's very logical we think for the new school in the area of the county to assume the Flint Hill name, which is historic," Oliver said. "The name Palmer Stone is so intimate with the site (in the city of Oxford) that we'd like to leave it here."

During its monthly meeting Monday, the Oxford City Council mentioned looking at purchasing the building if it ever became available.

Dobbs said that the school board wouldn't be opposed to Oxford using the name Palmer Stone for a future use of the building, although NCSS hasn't yet decided what will happen with it. Last year, NCSS decided to phase out of state funding Palmer Stone and Ficquett elementary schools and Newton High School; Sharp Learning Center also was previously phased out of state funding but still remains in use by NCSS.

The Newton County Board of Education is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday for its monthly work session at the Newton County BOE building at 2109 Newton Drive N.E. in Covington. Its monthly meeting is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 16.

According to its agenda, the board plans to take action relative to the naming of the new elementary school during its monthly meeting; it also will discuss elementary rezoning during its work session.