Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has plenty of serious plans for the coming school year, but I couldn't help noticing the district is also engaging in the time-honored tradition of spiffing up school names.
I was updating my spreadsheets for 2014-15 when I came across the names of the reorganized Olympic High schools:
*Olympic Biotechnology, Health and Public Administration.
*Olympic School of Executive Leadership and Entrepreneurial Development.
*Olympic School of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Advanced Manufacturing.
*Olympic Math, Engineering, Technology and Science (the school predates the trendy STEM acronym).
*And even the once-simple Olympic Renaissance has become Olympic Renaissance School of Arts and Technology.
If I were queen of the world, I'd limit school names to one or two descriptive words, plus the clearest possible label (such as elementary, middle or high school, though I realize the proliferation of mixed-level schools complicates that). I'd remind everyone involved that a name is not a syllabus, a mission statement or a marketing slogan. It should be simple and clear enough to define a community and stand the test of time.
Yes, I'm being crotchety about something that's an annoyance when I'm trying to get names right on deadline and make stories fit limited space. But there's a serious point here, too.
If you're a newcomer moving into the Olympic zone, what would you make of the list above? There are three schools of technology and one of biotechnology, one that offers entrepreneurship and another offering entrepreneurial development, and nothing about literature or writing or history, which I'm certain all the schools teach. Would this entice or confuse you? (Whether the five-school structure itself is a help or hindrance is a question for another day.)
Long-timers know it's a challenge to keep up with what schools are called from one year to the next. Cynics suspect that adding trendy twists to names can be a substitute for real action. Newcomers may struggle to figure out that Irwin Academic Center is an elementary school magnet, that iMeck Academy is the high school portion of Cochrane Collegiate Academy, and that terms such as "Collegiate" and "University" (in Harding University High) simply reflect a college-prep aspiration shared by all district schools.
I don't blame CMS for trying to keep up with a changing world and a competitive market. Flexibility and innovation are great. I'm just not sure it works to cram too much into school names.
If nothing else, I can be grateful for the new Palisades Park Elementary School, which resisted the temptation to put "STEM" into its name.