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Doug Jamerson's name to go on school in May

By KELLY RYAN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 29, 2001


LARGO -- Pinellas School Board members on Tuesday found a way to name a new St. Petersburg elementary school after Doug Jamerson, a longtime Pinellas legislator who died in April.

They're putting off an official decision until next May.

Their own rules dictate that a person must be dead for a year before the name can be used on a school building. Jamerson, who taught in Pinellas and was state education commissioner, died April 21.

In late June, a committee recommended that it would be a fitting tribute to Jamerson to put his name on a school being built as part of a settlement to end court-ordered busing. The committee recommended that another new elementary school be named for Judge James Sanderlin and a new middle school be named for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

At the time, board members eagerly embraced naming two new St. Petersburg schools after lawyers who fought school segregation. But they were stumped about how to honor Jamerson at the 11th Avenue S elementary school without violating their policy. So they did what government boards love to do in a sticky situation -- they scheduled it for a workshop meeting.

Since June, community support for Jamerson has grown. Several people wrote letters to the School Board, and a petition with 600 signatures was brought to the district office.

Superintendent Howard Hinesley called Jamerson a good friend and said he deserved to have his name on a school. But he cautioned against violating a longtime policy or changing it on the spot to suit the situation.

Board member Linda Lerner suggested waiting and noted the school won't be open for two years.

"There is real support to name the elementary school after Doug Jamerson," Lerner said. "I think this is a special cause sort of situation."

In fact, the district has a timeline it is supposed to follow in naming schools. It is supposed to name schools within a year of hiring an architect, and an architect was hired in November 1999.

The board already missed the deadline for naming this school, which is what made board member Carol Cook comfortable with putting it off even longer. Lee Benjamin was swayed by fears that it could be years before Pinellas builds another new school.

Board member Jane Gallucci thinks the policy should be changed, and she received support from her colleagues to revisit the issue in the future. She doesn't think the year waiting period makes a bit of sense.

"Is it a relevant criteria?" she wondered. "We know who Doug is. What difference does 12 months make?"

Board members could not vote after their discussion, but it was clear that they had reached consensus to honor Jamerson. Doris Swangles, who collected the petition signatures, could not have been more pleased.

"Those of us who knew Doug knew he dedicated so much of his time away from his family to the community," said the St. Petersburg resident. "He was always there."

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