The new athletic complex at Williamsville North High School will be named not after a legendary coach or athletic director, but after the district's embattled superintendent, Scott G. Martzloff.
The Williamsville School Board made the unusual move at its regular meeting late Tuesday.
While the board opted not to extend Martzloff's contract, outgoing board member Michael J. Schmidt proposed naming the North field after Martzloff. He also proposed naming the new Williamsville East field after longtime athletic director James Rusin, and the new Williamsville South field after retiring athletic director Kevin Lester.
Voters in 2015 approved spending $22.4 million to add turf and revamp athletic fields at the three high schools and an additional $4.6 million on restrooms, concessions and lights.
"The one thing left outstanding with the field project is the naming of the fields," said Schmidt. "We have not designated any names for the fields."
Board member Suzanne Van Sice seemed caught off guard by the proposal and asked if there had been community input.
"I mean, the board hasn't even, we weren't even aware of this," she said. "I think we would definitely have to have further discussion."
Martzloff said he felt Lester and Rusin, who died in 2013, were good choices, calling them "iconic figures in the area of athletics in Williamsville for decades."
But he declined the nomination for his name and asked the School Board to consider another name for North.
"I appreciate your nomination but I don't belong in that list," he said. "I haven't been here nearly long enough, done nearly enough to deserve even consideration, let alone having something named for me."
High school athletic fields are typically named after beloved coaches and athletic directors with decades of service to the school district. It's highly unusual to name an athletic field after a still-serving superintendent, especially one like Martzloff with only seven years in the district.
Still, Schmidt persisted and his motion passed by a 5-3 vote. He noted that Martzloff was the driving force behind the $27 million plan to overhaul the athletic complexes.
"This was a crowning achievement for the district," he said.
It has been a good week for Martzloff. He has been feuding with the district's teachers union for at least three years, but he claimed vindication earlier this week when a hearing officer upheld the district's firing of Kim Kirsch, an assistant superintendent for human resources, for leading an effort to oust Martzloff.
But Martzloff remains in a tenuous position. The School Board took no action Tuesday night during its meeting or after an executive session that ended just before midnight on a proposal to extend his contract by one year to May 30, 2021. And beginning next month, all nine seats on the School Board will be filled with members who were endorsed by the teachers union, which had voted no confidence in Martzloff in 2015.
At Williamsville East, the district is adding two multipurpose synthetic fields for soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, baseball and football to allow for two games to be going on at the same time. Other improvements include a new portable sound system and press box, bleachers, scoreboards and a storm water-management system for the turf fields.
Similar improvements were completed at Williamsville North.
At Williamsville South, the district is adding one synthetic turf field and building a new stadium with bleacher capacity for 2,700 people. Other enhancements include a new track and field stations, scoreboard, sound system, ticket booth, security fencing and five new tennis courts.