Billings­ley name is a per­son, a road, now a school

Served as board clerk a cen­tury ago

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­

Maryellen Popielarcheck said she was ini­tially ex­cited to see in the March 24 is­sue of the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent that the new el­e­men­tary school would be named Billings­ley, but she would like to see it bear­ing the name of ed­u­ca­tion leader Wil­liam Billings­ley, for whom the road in White Plains is named.

“He was very ac­tively in­volved in ed­u­ca­tion in Charles County,” said Popielarcheck, a for­mer Charles County resident who now lives in Me­chan­icsville. “He’s ex­tremely de­serv­ing of hav­ing a school named af­ter him.”

Dur­ing its Feb. 14 meet­ing, the school board re­quested three place names from the school nam­ing com­mit­tee af­ter hav­ing been pre­sented with the com­mit­tee’s ini­tial three rec­om­men­da­tions of names based on in­di­vid­u­als of sig­nif­i­cance to Charles County ed­u­ca­tion.

The com­mit­tee pro­vided the ad­di­tional place names at the board’s Feb. 27 work­ses­sion. One of those names was Billings­ley. At the time, the com­mit­tee re­ported that its re­search in­di­cated the road was not named af­ter a per­son of sig­nif­i­cance to Charles County.

“The Billings­ley name was pre­sented to us as a place name,” said Colleen Longhi, chair­woman of the com­mit­tee. Longhi said the com­mit­tee did look into it, but could not find any con­nec­tion be­tween Billings­ley and the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity.

“When I saw that I thought, ‘That’s not right. It’s named af­ter Mr. Billings­ley,’” Popielarcheck said. “I just want the record cor­rected.”

The board voted to name the new school Billings­ley El­e­men­tary at its March 21 meet­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2004 ap­pli­ca­tion to the Mary­land His­tor­i­cal Trust, Billings­ley Road got its name from Wil­liam Briscoe (W.B.) Billings­ley, who in 1903 pur­chased prop­erty on Mid­dle­town Road; sub­se­quently, the road run­ning south of his prop­erty be­came known as Billings­ley Road.

In 1985, Popielarcheck served on a school nam­ing com­mit­tee for an­other el­e­men­tary school. Wil­liam Billings­ley was one of the names nom­i­nated, al­though the school was ul­ti­mately named Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer El­e­men­tary.

Ac­cord­ing to “A Legacy: One- and Two-Room Schools in Charles County,” pub­lished in 1984 by the Charles County Re­tired Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, Wil­liam Billings­ley was a teacher in Charles County for 28 years, teach­ing at Bryan­town, St. Peters, Pom­fret and Bensville.

Ac­cord­ing to his­tor­i­cal min­utes of the Charles County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion posted on the school sys­tem’s web­site, Wil­liam Billings­ley was ap­pointed clerk of the school board Aug. 20, 1918, at a salary of $800 a year. The min­utes record that Wil­liam Billings­ley served as board clerk con­tin­u­ously un­til 1932, the year of his death.

In a 1985 nom­i­na­tion let­ter by Wil­liam Billings­ley’s daugh­ter, Rachel La­timer, she wrote, “For a long time, Mr. Billings­ley en­joyed the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing known as the ‘Teacher’s Friend.’ He never closed his of­fice till the last check had been given to the teacher’s [sic] or the sup­ply of books was is­sued for which they had made ap­pli­ca­tion.”

“It’s very in­ter­est­ing to learn that ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion,” said school board mem­ber Jen­nifer Abell, who made the mo­tion for the new school to be named Billings­ley El­e­men­tary. She said the in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the ori­gin of the street’s name would not have changed her vote.

“It’s still named af­ter the area, which is called Billings­ley,” Abell said.

Board Vice Chair­woman Barbara Palko was one of those who had voted against nam­ing the school af­ter Billings­ley Road.

“I felt very strongly that the school should have been given one of the three names orig­i­nally rec­om­mended, who were all peo­ple,” Palko said. “It’s a great learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for the stu­dents to know who their school is named af­ter.”

Board mem­ber Mark Craw­ford said he did not know if the in­for­ma­tion would have changed the vote.

“We chose the name based on the road, but we may have taken some pause had we known,” Craw­ford said. “Nowa­days, peo­ple think of Billings­ley as the cross-county con­nect­ing road; they don’t as­so­ciate it with a per­son’s name.”

Popielarcheck said she would like to see the board go back and change the name to Wil­liam Billings­ley El­e­men­tary, a name she fought for 32 years ago.

“I’d love noth­ing more than to see Wil­liam Billings­ley’s name on a school,” Popielarcheck said. “He de­serves it.”

Craw­ford said a fu­ture board can al­ways de­cide to change the name of the school to Wil­liam Billings­ley or any other name.

“We’ll see what the fu­ture holds, but for now it’s just Billings­ley,” Craw­ford said.

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