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Petition to name high school gym gaining traction

by Geoff Fox

Former Hancock Panthers Basketball Coach Jeff Spielman passed away on June 22 after a short battle with Lymphoma and now there is an online petition circulating that is asking Washington County Public Schools to rename the gym at Hancock Middle-Senior High School after Spielman.

The idea came from a former player shortly after Spielman passed away.

Hancock coach Jeff Spielman is pictured in this 1995 Hancock boys basketball yearbook photo.

Linda Hutson said her son, who played for Spielman on the 1999 Panthers’ basketball team, told her it would be a great honor for Coach Spielman if the court would be forever known as Jeff Spielman Court.

The honor of naming the court comes after what Spielman had done for the school, not just in basketball, but all sports.

For the Panthers basketball program, Spielman holds the mark for most wins in a season at 21, most career wins with over 250, most playoff wins, and most titles.

While there were other coaches like Tommy Flowers and Athletic Director Bill Sterner who had some input, but “given most of the credit where credit is due was being Coach Spielman,” Hustson said.

Hutson said she didn’t want any recognition for the movement, but instead wanted it to go to players from the 1999 Panthers basketball team.

Her son also reached out to his fellow teammates to get something started and Hutson reached out to town officials about doing something to honor Spielman.

The support for renaming the court has come from all over, including people who knew Spielman through his coaching at Hagerstown Community College.

Hutson said all the feedback she’s seen has been positive.

“Through the community just by word of mouth has been all 100%,” she said. “I’ve never heard an unkind word spoken about Jeff Spielman. Not one unkind word.”

As of Monday afternoon, there have been close to 900 people sign the online petition on ipetitions.com with a goal of 1,000.

A petition has also been placed at the town office in Town Hall.

Petitions are also available for current students.

County naming policy

According to WCPS policy, if there is considerable support within a community, the board may consider the petition to rename a portion of a building.

A petition of not less than ¾ of the school’s population must support the recommendation to the board as well.

“The board would thereafter permit the general public of Washington County a 30 day period in which to submit comments,” the policy said. “The board may also grant naming rights for donated facilities or those funded with private donation.”

When evaluating recommendations for naming portions of buildings, the board’s consideration will include, but not limited to a few guidelines.

If naming the building after an individual, the person, living or dead, must have made significant contributions to Washington County, the state of Maryland, or the United States; evidence of those contributions can be included, but not limited to unusually effective and dedicated service to and/or on behalf of the youth in the public school system, persistent efforts to sustain a quality system of public education and in to improve programs and services for them, demonstrated understanding of the essential nature of the public education in our democratic society and free enterprise system, the nominee must be worthy of the privilege of having a school named for them.

There also has to be attributes like superior level of performance in supporting public schools, effective citizenship, community service, excellent character and general reputation, and high standard of ethics.

Because ethnic and cultural composition of a local school community will change over time, the name selected should have broad acceptance in a multicultural society.

Erin Anderson, Communication Officer for WCPS, said the organizer of the petition has been coordinating with senior staff at WCPS and is prepared for the next steps to bring the requested naming rights request to the board’s attention.

“There is not a specified timeline for approving and implementing rights requests,” she said. “The process depends how soon the organizer can provide the petition to the school system and when the Board of Education can add it to an agenda for consideration and subsequent approval.”

These types of requests don’t come to WCPS very often, as naming rights are typically included as a donation within a public-private partnership.

Anderson said this was the case in 2016 when Williamsport named an athletic expansion where parts of the facility were named after Samantha Kelly, a student who was killed in a car accident, and former Anaheim Angels and Williamsport Wildcats pitcher Nick Adenhart who was killed by a drunk driver after making his first start of the 2009 Major League Baseball season.

“WCPS appreciates this input from the community and the desire to honor and recognize an educator who made a positive impact with students, colleagues, and families,” Anderson said.

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