Timberline High School graduate Baurice Nelson was so upset about a proposal to rename Thurston County’s largest school district Lacey Public Schools, he started a Facebook page about it.
Then he bought rights to a website, www.nolsd.org/. And then, with the help of a friend, Nelson started collecting signatures on an online petition against the proposal.
As of Tuesday, the “Keep the North Thurston School District Name” petition on change.org had more than 800 signatures.
“I have found no one who is not in some way connected to the Lacey expansion machine that is in favor of this idea,” said Nelson, 48, whose four children attend North Thurston schools. “There is no real argument or data that would suggest this would benefit kids’ education in any way whatsoever. So the question is, ‘What adults (are) benefiting, and is this mainly to bolster the image of Lacey?’”
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The North Thurston School Board will hold a special meeting 7 p.m. Thursday at Chinook Middle School to gather public input on the name change idea, said spokeswoman Courtney Schrieve.
“Generally, for public comment, the board asks that they limit their comments to three minutes,” she said. “And if they start hearing an overarching theme ... they may stop taking some comments, if it’s just people repeating the same thing again and again.”
District officials will update the board on the district’s survey results and estimated costs for the name change, she said. Schrieve said Tuesday it would cost less than $10,000 to change signs, and they would phase in changes in business cards, letterhead and bus signage as new items are purchased.
As of Tuesday, about 1,000 people filled out the district’s online survey on the issue.
“I would say the majority (of survey takers) have been against the change,” Schrieve said.
The nearly 14,000-student district was established in 1953 — 13 years before the city of Lacey was incorporated. One of the biggest proponents of the proposal is Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder, who believes it would help demonstrate the close relationship between the city and school district. The city is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
The idea has been kicked around for several years during joint city council and school board meetings, but it came before a school board work session in April.
Soon-to-be-retired North Thurston superintendent Raj Manhas said, on a personal level, he supports the name change. North Thurston becomes a barrier when trying to recruit potential teachers and staff members at statewide and national events, he said.
“People ask, ‘Where is North Thurston?’” Manhas said in an earlier interview with The Olympian. “It’s a name-identity issue, and we are stationed right here in Lacey, but our name doesn’t reflect that.”
More than half of the district’s 22 schools are inside the city limits, and the rest are in Lacey’s urban growth area — with the exception of South Bay Elementary, which is in unincorporated Thurston County.
John Grantham, a North Thurston parent and owner of Budd Bay Promotions and Apparel, said he has mixed feelings on the issue.
“It’s a way of better branding the city, and giving it more of an identity, which I think is good,” Grantham said.
“But as a resident and someone who lives in the rural area, I think there’s a strong emotional connection and maybe even a financial one to be affiliated with Olympia.”
Grantham said he thinks one of the biggest issues is that Lacey doesn’t have a downtown or strong identity itself.
“Maybe we’re doing the cart ahead of the horse,” Grantham said about the name change proposal. “Maybe we’ve got to work as a community to build that (identity).”
If you go
North Thurston School Board will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at Chinook Middle School’s cafeteria, 4301 Sixth Ave. NE, Lacey, to hear public input on a proposal to change the school district’s name to Lacey Public Schools. The district also has an online survey about the proposal at www.nthurston.k12.wa.us.