Ogdensburg school board expected to continue coach honoring discussion at Tuesday meeting
Monday, September 3, 2018 - 8:36 pm

Proposed sign naming the access road behind the Edgar A. Newell II Memorial Golden Dome at Ogdensburg Free Academy after Coach Penny Raftis Sharrow (not an actual sign). Photo provided by Diane Para


OGDENSBURG – The Ogdensburg City School District Board of Education is expected to continue talks regarding honoring the contributions of longtime track and field coach and retired physical education teacher Penny Raftis Sharrow at an optional meeting meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

The optional meeting was exercised solely to discuss a current proposal that the access road behind the Edgar A. Newell II Memorial Golden Dome at Ogdensburg Free Academy be named “Penny Raftis Sharrow Drive” to recognize Sharrow’s contributions to girls’ athletics.

The access road also runs adjacent to the Steven J. Barlow Track and Field Complex, which was named after the former track and field coach, high school principal and math teacher after approval by the Board of Education during the spring.

The board’s decision to name the complex after Barlow, however, sparked a citizen-led proposal to also include Sharrow’s name on the sign, which prompted high citizen turnout at several ensuing board meetings. An online petition supporting the addition of Sharrow’s name also garnered over 10,000 signatures before closing in June.

The original proposal to include Sharrow’s name along with Barlow’s was submitted to the board by 1982 OFA graduate Dr. Diane Para at a meeting on Monday, May 7.

After much deliberation by the board, a motion to add Sharrow’s name to the sign failed to carry in a deadlocked 4-4 vote at a meeting on Monday, June 18.

Para then submitted the alternative proposal to name the access road “Penny Raftis Sharrow Drive” at a meeting on Monday, July 2, which the board then discussed at a meeting on Monday, Aug 27. However, discussion was ultimately tabled in favor of allowing the board more time to review suggested changes to the originally proposed sign that had been circulating via email.

The board and administration also discussed some logistical and design concerns regarding a freestanding sign during that meeting.

Para addressed several of these concerns in emailed statement shared with NorthCountryNow.com.

“We put a lot of effort into ensuring the location would be safe and clear of obstructing vehicle view and drafting a sign that was similar to the other signs while providing the intended significance,” Para said.

“I agree with Mr. Vernsey that there should be some consistency and uniformity when doing these kinds of things and certainly agree that all should be done presenting a professional and classy look and feel to the venue and overall area. We believe this sign accomplishes all of that. It was deliberate that the sign presented was of the same color, same material, same etching,” Para added.

District Superintendent Timothy Vernsey had advised the board to keep uniformity and consistency in mind when deciding how to best honor Sharrow with signage at the last meeting.

Para closed her statement with a request for fair treatment when considering recognition of the female coach.

“Much more importantly though, what can’t be missed is that one sign is denoting the naming of a field for a male coach, one sign denotes the naming of the track for a male coach and one sign denotes the naming of the press box. Just putting Coach Sharrow’s name on a sign to hang on the fence near Monument Park similar to sponsor signs that hang on some venues, in my opinion, is just not the same, nor adequate, nor fair. I and many many others certainly hope that at least five board members feel the same. We most certainly appreciate the willingness of the board to make the time and effort through a special meeting to consider the proposal,” Para said.

Aside from naming the track and field complex after Barlow, the athletic facility at OFA also contains the Ronald N. Johnson Football Field and Dave “Doc” Shea Press Box. Johnson, a retired football coach, physical education teacher and athletic director, currently serves as Board of Education President.

The formal proposals submitted by Para have also included the names of OFA graduates Margaret Langley (‘75), Lisa Boyer (‘75), Dianne Jeneault (‘84), Julie Hynes (‘85) and Amy Farrell (‘95).