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School Board delays acting on naming HHS auditorium for Tom Orr

After hearing from many former students who passionately urged the board to name the HHS auditorium for Tom Orr, the School Board delayed action in favor of a more formal process to consider nominatations from the school's students, faculty and alumni and the public.

School Board Chair Blair Craven noted that two schools are named for individuals — Bruce Drysdale and Glenn Marlow elementary schools — and football stadiums and some gyms are named for people — usually teachers or coaches. But he said he had trouble singling out one teacher among many excellent educators to name a building for.

"When you start naming after specific teachers, I think I can name probably three or four teachers right now that I think would deserve something," Craven said.

As with nearly everything about school operations, it turns out there is an official policy on naming school facilities— Policy 9300. With input from staff, students, parents and the public, the school superintendent may consider suggested names and send them to the School Board. The naming may honor someone "who's helped students in the school succeed through financial contributions or educational leadership" or someone of prominence beyond the school system.

Board members Jay Egolf and Robert Brooks said they saw merit in naming the auditorium for Orr but stopped short of making a motion to name it for the theater teacher.

Stacey Caskey said she considered "what aboutism" when she looked at a lineup of outstanding teachers.

A gallery in the central office featuring the teachers in the Education Hall of Fame includes dozens of deserving people, she noted. "I think what happens is we start to say which teacher is more deserving and that kind of worries me because I think so many teachers have an impact on so many people's lives that I feel like we're leaving out a lot of people by not going through the process," she said.

Amy Lynn Holt said there's no sign of any opposition to naming the auditorium for Orr. "What about all the educators, I realize that," she said. "But there's a big voice in our community that wants this and I think that it definitely hurt to go through what our policy says and having people at the school — the students, the parents, the faculty — have a voice in this. I definitely would like to hear from the Alumni Association, Mr. Wilkins, the students, the staff."

Ashley Orr Self, Tom Orr's niece, read excerpts from some of the 100 letters people had written supporting the tribute: "I would not be who I am if it weren't for Mr.Orr's production and influence on my life." "I can't imagine being named for anyone else. Tom Orr was an icon among educators." "In high school Mr.Orr urged me to enter a national writing contest and I won first prize."

"Close to 600 students and community members have signed a petition to name this auditorium after Mr. Orr," she said.

Anne Ferguson also urged to the School Board to name the auditorium for Tom Orr, who taught has majorly impacted my life," she said. "I do hope that you will name the auditorium after Tom Orr."

Sandy Morgan Carpenter said: "You're not setting a precedent by naming the auditorium for Tom Orr. When he retired, he kept up with the community. He did plays, he worked on (preserving) the Historic Courthouse. I could go on and on with what Tom Orr did. ... He was the only teacher to be named grand marshal of the Apple Festival parade so the comunity has spoken."

Tom Hill, a 1966 Hendersonville High School graduate, student body president and valedictorian, said: "I think it would do honor to the school to name the facility after him."

Mark Shepherd said Orr taught everyone what it means to love community. "That lesson was to love this community," he said. "He sat where y'all did. Naming the auditorium after him would show all the students the community his legacy and that legacy was to love his community. He was someone that truly taught us that lesson."