Ogdensburg school considers honoring female track coach with sign
Sunday, July 8, 2018 - 8:24 am

By THOMAS LUCKIE III

OGDENSBURG – A new proposal to honor the legacy of long-time track and field coach and retired Ogdensburg Free Academy physical education teacher Penny Raftis Sharrow through the naming of a road was submitted to the Board of Education at Monday’s meeting.

The proposal calls for the access road located between the Edgar A. Newell II Memorial Golden Dome and the recently named Steven J. Barlow Track and Field Complex to be named “Penny Raftis Sharrow Drive.”

Also included in the proposal is an image with suggested signage, appearance and location for the sign, which distinguishes Sharrow as a pioneer for the advancement and growth of girls athletics.

Many OFA graduates, former-student athletes, and citizens have publicly advocated for recognition of Sharrow since the board approved the naming of the complex after Barlow at a meeting on April 2.

An online petition supporting the addition of Sharrow’s name to be displayed alongside Barlow’s on the sign at the complex also garnered over 10,000 signatures before closing.

Dr. Diane Para, a 1982 OFA graduate and current program director of the Sports Management at SUNY Canton who has been the primary public voice in support of Sharrow, spoke before the board for the fifth consecutive meeting while submitting the new proposal.

“We believe this is both a reasonable alternative to the original proposal and an appropriate recognition for Coach Sharrow and believe it eliminates the concerns previously expressed by members of the board in regards to the original proposal,” Para said.

While Para noted that Sharrow was unaware the new proposal was being formally submitted to the board at the meeting, she did notify the board that the idea was “enthusiastically endorsed” by Sharrow and her family.

“We formally ask that this current proposal be placed on the next board meeting agenda and hope that you might consider it as a working point moving forward,” Para said.

Para also stated that she is also willing to work with members of the board as an ad hoc committee to work out details modifications, or concerns that can be reported back to the greater board.

The written proposal also included the names of several other OFA graduates: Margaret Langley, Class of 1975, Lisa Boyer, 1975, Dianne Jeneault, 1984, Julie Hynes, 1985, and Amy Farrell, 1995.

Boyer is currently Associate Head Coach of the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team and helped the Gamecocks win the 2017 NCAA Division I National Championship. Jeanault and Hynes currently coach girls track and field at OFA and Farrell is a world-class triathlete who recently won the women’s overall title at the IRONMAN Santa Rosa in California.

While Para initially spoke before the board to propose the addition of Sharrow’s name to the sign at the complex at a board meeting on May 7, other alternative suggestions have included a separate sign recognizing Sharrow to stand alongside the current sign recognizing Barlow as well as a stone archway dedicated to Sharrow and girls athletics.

Sharrow stated at a meeting on June 18 that a board member floated the idea of a separate sign, while Barlow himself proposed the idea of a stone archway when the two met privately to discuss the situation.

At that same meeting, board member Michael Tooley made a motion to reconsider the April 2 action approving the naming of the complex after Barlow as a potential starting point to an alternative solution, however the vote was split 4-4 and the motion failed to carry. 
Both Barlow and Sharrow boast decades of involvement with track and field at OFA, among many other achievements and accolades. Sharrow remains active in coaching and coached the boys modified spring track and field team in the recently completed 2018 season.

Ogdensburg City School District Superintendent Timothy Vernsey originally submitted the formal written nomination to dedicate the complex after Barlow, who was also a principal and math teacher at OFA, at the April 2 meeting. Vernsey pointed to Barlow’s overall dual meet record of 112 wins against only five losses as an especially noteworthy accomplishment worthy of recognition.

No action was taken by the board after Para submitted the proposal near the conclusion of the meeting. The next regular Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 27.