The Montgomery County school board calls the new school in Gaithersburg Rachel Carson Elementary School. But to the mayor, it will always be Kentlands Elementary School, and he plans to have the city erect a sign immortalizing the disagreement.
This is the first year, by order of the school board, that new schools must be named for a celebrated woman or minority group member. And while Mayor W. Edward Bohrer Jr. respects Rachel Carson, the woman who alerted the world to the hazards of DDT, he thinks the late Otis Beall Kent, an ardent Gaithersburg conservationist, would have been a better choice.
"I will never refer to it by that name," said Bohrer, announcing that the city's months-long protest at Rachel Carson will continue when a metal sign is erected on school grounds with four paragraphs of text proclaiming Kent's good works and complaining about an "intractable school board."
"We think it's a rather neat way of showing community spirit," Bohrer said. "Posterity will recognize the battle that went on here."
"Stubbornness cuts both ways," said school board President Robert Shoenberg of the city's continued assertions that school board members dismissed local tastes in rejecting a request to name the school for Kent, who in the 1940s turned his 1,000-acre estate into a nature preserve. "To perpetuate the record of . . . disagreements is really small-minded," he said. "Pretty ridiculous."
Aside from erecting the sign, city officials have one more plan with which to tweak the school board. The deed to the school site, which the city has been withholding as a protest, will be rewritten to include most of the school's land, but not the area around the sign.
"It's legal," said Bohrer. "And, we'd like to make it nice, noticeable, perhaps with some nice shrubbery."