Proposal would rename NCMS as Lynch Middle School

Proposal would rename NCMS as Lynch Middle School

CUMBERLAND – A proposal now before the School Committee would change the name of the North Cumberland Middle School to the Richard B. Lynch Middle School in honor of the school’s first principal.

Lynch, who died in March, was a 46-year educator in Rhode Island, serving as teacher, guidance counselor, coach, assistant principal, middle school principal and high school principal in Cumberland before becoming assistant superintendent and then superintendent in Smithfield prior to his retirement in 1994.

Joyce Koutsogiane, former McCourt Middle School principal who first served as assistant principal under Lynch when he was principal of what was then known as Cumberland Middle School (McCourt), approached the School Committee with the request at its meeting last Thursday, May 9. Koutsogiane, who’s known the Lynch family for some 30 years or longer, said she felt this would be an appropriate honor for a deserving man.

“Since my former school was named after its first principal, I thought it was only right that the North Cumberland Middle School would be named after the first principal of that school,” she said.

If the school board recommends approval of the name change at its meeting next week, the proposal would go to the Town Council as the body responsible for naming buildings.

The name change proposal was drawing some criticism within the NCMS community this week, with various reasons offered for why the name shouldn’t change. One suggestion on the school’s PTO page was that the entire body of a principal’s work should be looked at when considering such a move. Lynch’s involvement with the famous case Fricke vs. Lynch, in which Aaron Fricke, the Cumberland High School teenager who wanted to bring a male friend to prom, challenged Lynch’s denial of the request based on safety concerns and ultimately won, is reason enough not to name the school after him, said one member.

Former school board member Bill Dennen responded on the page that he agrees any name change should reflect the inclusive environment schools are trying to cultivate today.

School Committee Chairman Paul DiModica responded that he agreed to Koutsogiane’s request to put the matter on the agenda to allow the public and school board to weigh in.

“Ultimately the vote will be with the Town Council who by charter have that responsibility for naming public buildings in town,” he said.

Bethany Coughlin, principal at NCMS, rose to support the proposed name change at last week’s meeting. She said she’s known Lynch for her whole life, that he had the respect of her father, a former school board member, and that he continued to play an important part in the NCMS community long after he left. He presented his student-athlete award to two 8th-graders every year, she said, right up to the last two when he would still call and really wanted to be at the event.

After her appointment as principal, said Coughlin, she went through old documents going back to when the school opened, finding comments giving insight on his educational philosophy and culture Lynch wanted to create.

One interview in particular, where Lynch gave his philosophy on education, caught her attention, she said.

“To build better school student relations, to better school parent relations, to reach the individual student, and to have each student strive to do their best and work hard to reach their goal,” Lynch responded to the questioner.

“This is the philosophy that we follow today,” said Coughlin, adding that the school is focused on students, relationship building, and academic excellence.

“Based on his dedication, exceptional character, and hard work over the course of his highly successful career, I would be honored to be the principal of the Richard B. Lynch Middle School,” said Coughlin.

Comments

Since it's so close to their father's passing, the Lynch family has asked to hold off on renaming NCMS after him at this time. They are honoring him privately for all he has done for everyone.