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Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Naming school after Lyle Flagg would be fitting tribute

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Published:   |   Updated: September 4, 2013 at 03:34 PM

You can see the results of Lyle Flagg’s work all over eastern and southern Hillsborough County.

If you go to a football game at Armwood High School, you will sit in Lyle Flagg Field. That’s only fitting because he was the first principal at that school and stayed in that job for six years. He also served as principal at Brandon High for eight years, and was principal at East Bay High for another six.

He was principal at the old Pinecrest High near rural Plant City. And Dowdell Junior High. During his 40-year career, he is credited with helping guide the county’s schools during a tumultuous period of desegregation — sometimes over the opposition of the Ku Klux Klan.

Even though he retired from the school system in 1990, he didn’t stop serving. In 2011, he was named the county’s Human Rights Person of the Year for the work he did as a mentor to minority school administrators.

He died in May at 85.

Now, a longtime family friend wants Flagg’s legacy to reach even further. He would like to see a new elementary school being planned in south Hillsborough named for Flagg. It would be a fitting way to honor a giant whose impact on public education in this county will echo for decades to come.

“As a friend of mine said, this is a no-brainer,” said Mark Nash, who has filled out the paperwork to formally place Flagg’s name for consideration by the school board later this month.

“You’d have to be living under a rock here not to understand and appreciate his contributions. Any time his name is mentioned, it’s interesting how people respond with reactions of such respect. He was just a revered educator, and I think that’s because he followed the old adage that respect begets respect.”

But does it beget enough respect to create Lyle Flagg Elementary?

It’s not a slam dunk.

The naming of any school usually brings out many worthy candidates. Former school board member Jack Lamb also has made strong contributions to the county and could have supporters in his corner for this school. These things can get pretty political, too, as residents found when the school board overruled their request to have a local school named Fishhawk High - choosing, instead, to name it Newsome in honor of a Plant City civic icon.

That’s why board member Doretha Edgecomb was cautious when asked about the potential for Lyle Flagg Elementary. Trying to predict how these things will go can be a futile endeavor.

“I don’t want anything that could appear that I favor one applicant over another, because I will have to vote on this,” she said.

But she also added, “(Flagg) was a very dedicated and conscientious educator. I always saw him fair and open-minded. He was a big-thinker with the county’s best interests always at heart.”

That’s really Nash’s point, and service like that deserves a monument that will last. There would be no better tribute for a man whose life was all about schools than to have one named in his honor.

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