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After Discussion of Precedents and Money, Watauga School Board Unanimously Votes For ‘Wallace Field’

By Jesse Wood

Jan. 15, 2012. After some discussion regarding potential precedents and corporate donations, the Watauga County Board of Education unanimously approved to name the Watauga High School lacrosse field “Wallace Field” in honor of Leigh Cooper Wallace.

Up until her recent passing in December, Leigh Cooper Wallace, a coach and teacher at WHS, had been the only coach the women’s lacrosse team had ever had since it became a sanctioned interscholastic sport with the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. Her husband Chris is the men’s lacrosse coach.

Principal Marshall Gasperson said he brought the recommendation to the board on Monday night with “honor and reverence.”

Leigh Cooper Wallace
Leigh Cooper Wallace

“I can’t think of Leigh Wallace without thinking of Watauga High School and I can’t think of Watauga High School without thinking of Leigh Wallace,” Gasperson said.

In a letter sent to Supt. David Kafitz days before yesterday night’s meeting,  Gasperson requested guidance on the application of the fee schedule for naming rights of high school facilities that was approved by the school board in May 2012.

Gasperson requested foregoing the $10,000 fee and the time period associated with naming the lacrosse field. A 15-year time period – versus lifetime – was selected in May to maximize naming-rights revenues for facility repairs or upgrades.

Before the motion was approved, Supt. David Kafitz suggested addressing the school system’s policy regarding the naming of facilities, so as not to unknowingly violate the policy.

Also, Board Chair Dr. Lee Warren voiced concerns about setting precedents by naming the field after Wallace, stating that there have been people over the year who are important in the eyes of the Watauga High School community that have recently passed away such as Steve Hardy, a fellow who “practically made the baseball program.

Warren also mentioned “heated discussions” in past board meetings about naming facilities after people or corporations before the students moved into the new high school. 

“I just want us to be aware of what we are doing,” Warren said.

Board Member Ron Henries asked about Wallace’s relevance to the lacrosse field and Gasperson told him that Wallace was the only coach the women’s team had ever had and that her husband taught the men’s team.

Gasperson said, “I can’t imagine we would name the field after anybody else.”

Henries shook his head and said, “I have a real problem if this has to be tied to money.”

Nobody on the school board objected to Henries’ comment. Then School Attorney Paul Miller chimed in and said, “I think you can name it after her without having to waive a fee.”

A school board policy titled “Naming Public School Facilities” states: “Nominees should have made or should be making a significant contribution to Watauga County or the schools therein through service, leadership and/or financial support …”

Miller said a significant contribution doesn’t have to be money.