West Port High School’s football stadium will be named after longtime educator Ken Vianello. Dunnellon High School’s softball field will be named after famed coach Kevin Fagan.

The School Board reached a unanimous consensus on Thursday to rename the West Port High School football stadium and the Dunnellon High School softball field after former influential leaders.


The board agreed with the community’s request to name the West Port High football stadium after the late Ken Vianello, who was hired in 1973 and was principal at Fort King Middle School, as well as Forest, Vanguard and West Port high schools, for 30 years.


Vianello, who died at age 76 in 2016, implemented the International Baccalaureate program at Vanguard. In 2000, he was asked to oversee the construction of West Port High School. He is the father of Mark Vianello, the district’s executive director of Career and Technical Education.


"In other words, he sculpted the school’s (West Port’s) culture and breathed life into the concept that was and still is West Port High School today," according to a petition.


The board also gave unanimous consent to rename Dunnellon High’s softball field after Kevin Fagan, who coached the Tigers to back-to-back state championships in 2009 and 2010. In 2010, the Tigers won a national championship. He is now the head softball coach at the College of Central Florida.


A petition states the community wants to name Dunnellon’s softball field Fagan Field.


"Over the years Coach Fagan’s service to this community created ripples being felt far beyond our small town," the petition states.


The document states that Fagan installed dugout storage, hitting stations and batting cages. He sent many hours mowing, fertilizing and cultivating the "prettiest softball field around."


The board will formally vote on those two designations at a future board meeting.


The news came during a marathon work session on Thursday that covered many topics, from an update on the COVID-19 coronavirus, the cost of school security and plans for the new Military Choice Academy.


COVID-19 coronavirus


Superintendent of Schools Heidi Maier used part of her briefing to focus on the nation’s COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak and how the community is preparing if it should arrive in Marion.


Mark Lander, the administrator of the state Department of Health in Marion County, told board members the health department is working with emergency management.


Lander said his agency is meeting with the School District, nursing homes and other agencies. The group is discussing the latest information about the disease and the proper protocols in case the disease appears locally.


Lander noted that the community should refer to the disease as COVID-19, which is a type of coronavirus that has been spreading, especially in western states, in recent weeks.


Officials urge people to wash hands, from the wrist to fingernails, regularly, and to also use hand sanitizers when a wash station is not available.


Kevin Christian, spokesman of the School District, said Marion County Public Schools has an action plan if any cases arrive locally.


School security


Safe Schools Coordinator Dennis McFatten updated board members about the ongoing cost of state-required school security items throughout the district.


McFatten shared a presentation with the board that revealed the district needs nearly $6 million to pay for all necessary security items, from cameras, door buzzers and fencing, to finish securing the district’s 50-plus schools and district offices.


Board member Beth McCall said the district needs to prioritize the list because the work must be done over several years. Other board members agreed.


The board wants to invite state lawmakers to Marion to see the challenge and expense of completing state-required security on all campuses. Marion County’s land mass is larger than Rhode Island and the district educates 43,000 students and employs 7,000 people.


Military academy


The district also gave the School Board a lengthy presentation about the planned Military Choice Academy, which will allow high school students, regardless of prior grades, an opportunity to enroll.


Once enrolled, the student will be required to meet the high standards of the program. The program will give cadets two pathways: enlistment or enrollment. Currently, students will have a pathway to Florida State and Tallahassee Community College, which is guided by the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, or what is called the Seminole Battalion.


Since the program will be housed at Marion Technical Institute, the district will hire an assistant principal to run the Military Choice Academy.


Joe Callahan can be reached at 867-4113 or at joe.callahan@starbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeOcalaNews.