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School Board drops Balfour name change

School board members Ervin Bazzle, Mary Louise Corn, Rick Wood and Josh Houston during a board meeting Monday night. School board members Ervin Bazzle, Mary Louise Corn, Rick Wood and Josh Houston during a board meeting Monday night.

The Henderson County School Board on Monday dropped the idea of renaming Balfour Education Center after former teachers and students and people devoted to local history objected to severing a community tie that goes back 130 years.
School Board chairman Ervin Bazzle announced the decision Monday night.

KentParentBalfour principal Kent Parent.Balfour principal Kent Parent and schools superintendent David Jones had recommended changing the name to Henderson County Career and Technical Academy to better reflect the new training programs that Balfour has started and to shed what they said is a stigma that unfairly tars its students. An alternative school, Balfour has expanded beyond a conventional role as a place for kids with discipline problems and expanded into programs that teach business and finance, daycare jobs, auto mechanics and firefighting.

Parent said he could accept the board's decision as long as his original intent — to rebrand the school for the good of its students — prevails.

"I just want the word to get out that Balfour is not a place for bad kids," Parent said after the meeting. "It's a school of opportunity."

The School Board had approved the name change on first reading last month and was expected to take up the matter in a final decision next month. But board members began to get a sense of increasing unease from the Balfour community, former teachers and history advocates. The Heritage Museum Board wrote a letters to Jones and the School Board opposing the name change.

"What we have decided to do is to pull that matter, take it under advisement and continue our thoughts with the individuals that are involved," Bazzle said. "There was never the intention to dishonor the people who graduated from that school nor those who taught there but I would also say there is a perception (of the name) by students in school today that is entirely different than the history of Balfour School."
Bazzle suggested that the affection for the school expressed by name change opponents could be put to good use to promote Balfour.
"So I am going to encourage the people that have a connection to that school to make that connection known to people who are at that school," he said. "I think it's important that we recognize the mission of that school at the present time. Our attention's going to be primarily on that. We are not going to leave the name change alone, nor are we going to be taking action to change the name."
Corum Smith, the retired principal of Balfour Elementary School, urged the School Board to keep the Balfour name.
"I feel I have a vested personal interest in its future having spent 21 wonderful, eventful years at Balfour," he said. His mother played basketball at Balfour High School, his father drove a school bus for Balfour, and he attended the school himself when it served grades 1 through 8.

Scorched by an arson fire in 1972, Balfour was repaired the following year. The current school building, of 1920s vintage, was an elementary school before serving as a temporary home for Hendersonville Middle School during that school's renovation. It is now Henderson County's alternative school, with an expanding technical curriculum.

"Now Balfour in the 21st century is reinventing itself again," Smith said.
School Board member Rick Wood, the lone board member to raise concerns about the name change last month, endorsed the recommendation to drop the idea.
"All the comments I got in the way of letters and personal contact were that they wanted the Balfour name to be left somehow in the name of the school," Wood said. "I've learned a lot about the history, more than I certainly knew. I think we're wise to table this at this point. But we don't need to lose sight in our discussion about the name of what's going on there at Balfour and what Mr. Parent has done. I think he's already changing the image of the reality of what's there at Balfour."

Other board members joined in the praise of Parent and his staff.

"It's amazing work," said board member Amy Holt. "He's touching students that really need his hand in their lives and he's also creating programs that are really exciting programs and are things that traditional schools just can't do."
In a memo delivered to the board on Monday, Jones retreated from the renaming idea.
"Last month I brought forward a recommendation that the Balfour Education Center be renamed Henderson County Career and Technical Academy beginning in the 2013-14 school year," he said. "It is my fear that the name change issue will continue to create a distraction in regards to what we are trying to accomplish at the school. Our conversation needs to be about programs and how they can provide a variety of opportunities for our students across our school district.
"I wish to withdraw the request for a name change of the Balfour Education Center in order to remove any distractions that might interfere with our focus on the programs we have and the programs we are trying to establish."