Cerabino: Palm Beach County Schools has your name, but not your number

The Palm Beach County School Board is considering streamlining its school-naming policy to allow wealthy, living individuals to have schools named after them in exchange for a “significant contribution.”

These “legacy naming rights” would replace a policy that gives the school’s advisory council (SAC) a say on the name change, sparing a “substantial benefactor” the current level of review.

School Board members had some reservations and questions about the proposed policy during a workshop discussion this week.

“I’m not in favor of bypassing the SAC just because somebody put a bunch of money on the table,” board member Debra Robinson said.

Board member Barbara McQuinn wondered about the size of a naming-rights-worthy donation.

“When we used the term ‘significant contribution,’ how do we define ‘significant?’” McQuinn asked.

Good question. There isn’t a magic number.

In 1997, local media magnate Alexander Dreyfoos donated $1 million to a fledgling high school of the arts on a renovated campus of the former Palm Beach High School in West Palm Beach. The School Board later named the school after him.

The practice of naming schools after living people is rare, though. And it’s probably safe to say that $1 million today may not be enough to get a whole school named after you.

But that’s OK. There are various levels of “significance” in the proposed policy.

And you don’t have to donate enough money to get the whole school named after you.

You can just go for a piece of the school by requesting one of the “ancillary facilities, buildings or components of facilities” be named after you.

Maybe something like the Frank Cerabino Second-Floor Janitor’s Closet.

(Donor supplies his own plaque for the door.)

And you can opt for temporary naming rights if your budget is slightly less … er, um … significant.

The cheapest option is “short-term naming rights” which lasts for 10 years. The pricier step up from that is called “long-term naming rights,” which is good for up to 40 years.

The “legacy naming rights” option is the one that maintains your naming rights “in perpetuity” — which in this case, probably means until the school is swallowed up by the Atlantic Ocean and becomes part of an artificial reef off the coast of what’s left of post-climate-change Florida.

The plan calls for school principals to prepare a Master School Naming Program contribution schedule.

“If the minimum contribution for the naming of a building for five years is established at $50,000, then the minimum contribution for the naming of the same building for 10 years should be a minimum of $100,000,” the guidelines say as an example.

Kristin Garrison, the district’s director of planning, told board members the word “significant” didn’t have a specific dollar figure attached.

“It will be on a case-by-case basis,” she said.

I know what you’re thinking: There’s no telling when the “Me too” revelations will subside. So it seems crazy to name anything after a living man at this point, especially a wealthy one with power.

Well, relax. It’s covered.

The policy has a bad-behavior provision in it that would rescind the school’s name, without a refund, to the benefactor if he or she acted in a way that was “inappropriate and/or in conflict with the school district’s values.”

That sounds like a pretty big net.

I like to think of this as “the Masilotti clause,” named after former County Commissioner Tony Masilotti, who had a park in Royal Palm Beach named for him, then unnamed for him after his conviction for improperly using his office to make millions of dollars on land deals.

The new policy would also extend naming-rights opportunities to corporations as well as individuals, and it welcomes “community recommendations in the naming process.”

I don’t have any recommendations, but if there are any corporations that want to invest in public school naming rights, I do have some predictions.

I predict that the uniforms at Best Buy High will be blue polo shirts and khaki pants. That a new fast-food-sponsored school will be named Chick-fil-A+ Elementary. And that the school funded by Florida Power & Light will have a cheerleading squad called “The Live Wires.”

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