Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Tackles Tough School Question

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Tackles Tough School Question

Article excerpt

GREEN COVE SPRINGS -- For the third time this year, the Clay County School Board has had to name a planned school. And for the third time this year, the board had a tough time doing so.

"No matter what we do," said board member Carol Vallencourt, "there are going to be population groups who are not happy with the decision."

The decision last week was to name the school -- a high school planned for Fleming Island -- Fleming Island High School. Also, the board said "Golden Eagles" would be the school's mascot and hunter green and gold its school colors.

Fleming Island High was the top recommendation of a committee, made up of students, parents, community leaders and district officials, that studied potential names.

The committee's second and third choices were, respectively, Roy S. Geiger High School, for a World War II hero who was the first Clay County native to attain the rank of general, and Hibernia High School, for a plantation owned by early island settlers.

Contingents from local historical and military groups and other people asked the board to be the first to honor Geiger, who was born in Middleburg, as a memorial to him and as a gesture of appreciation to the large military community in Clay County.

"We in Clay County pay a lot of lip service to the military [population]. We don't do a lot about it," said Mike Scott, who is executive director of the county Chamber of Commerce, but said he was speaking only for himself. "You tend to honor what you value and we've got a bonafide hero here."

Mary Zellner, a local historian, former Clay educator and "Army widow," said students "would be proud" to go to a school named for a military hero. Also, she said naming the school for the island's original settlers, the Fleming family, whose patriarch "did not believe in public education," would be inappropriate.

All the board members, each of whom cited one military tie or another, agreed that something in Clay County should be named for Geiger, who was a teacher, principal and lawyer before entering the Marine Corps. But they were divided on whether this particular high school was the right place to honor him. …

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