Process of renaming Duluth school bogs down actual decision
The long and emotional process of naming the new eastern middle school in Duluth could come to a head as soon as next week. The Duluth School Board spent more than an hour Tuesday on a drawn-out, often terse discussion of the school's naming comm...
The long and emotional process of naming the new eastern middle school in Duluth could come to a head as soon as next week.
The Duluth School Board spent more than an hour Tuesday on a drawn-out, often terse discussion of the school's naming committee and whether they should try to vote and move on or do more research. The discussion highlights what a sensitive issue the naming of the school, which will be housed in the old East High School, has become.
Board member Tim Grover likened the various delays to "stonewalling" for something that should have already been done. But member Tom Kasper said he wanted to give the school more consideration than was given to Morgan Park Middle School, which will lose its name when students move to the new Lincoln Park Middle School.
"We need to be very careful here and we need to make sure we are doing this right," Kasper said. "This is a great honor. It should be well-researched and well-thought out."
There was a disagreement in the make-up of the naming committee itself. At a meeting last week, Grover and member Mary Cameron both indicated disappointment in the lack of diversity in the seven-member committee chosen by Superintendent I.V. Foster and board chairwoman Judy Seliga-Punyko. When Foster presented the board Tuesday with a more diverse
16-member committee, they said that wasn't what they asked him to do.
Cameron said she noted it was a missed opportunity to include diversity, but she accepted the committee. But other board members said their understanding was that Foster was going to address Grover and Cameron's concerns by adding to the size and diversity of the committee.
There was little debate of actual names Tuesday. A school named after Duluth educators Ruth Myers, who was American Indian, and Marge Wilkins, who was black, has been advocated for heavily in public comments at board meetings. Speakers have said the name will help teach about the history of black and American Indian women in the area.
Kasper said he wanted to keep the original name: Ordean Middle School.
"When he (Albert Ordean) died, he gave much of his estate for a foundation to be created, and its only objective was to take care of the needy of Duluth," Kasper said. "He did nothing wrong here and for us to be talking about removing his name from a school that has held his name for over 50 years ... he's one of Duluth's greatest forefathers."
Member Ann Wasson said she's heard from an overwhelming number of people who want to name the school East, which is already etched into the limestone of the building.
Member Art Johnston said the discussion was good, and it ensured a decision wouldn't be made in a void. In his talks with school board members across the state, he said, he's learned it's a difficult decision.
Johnston said he has heard from several people wanting the school to be named Myers-Wilkins.
"Naming schools is a contentious issue," he said. "We just know it's something we have to work through, and that's OK."
Foster said he would convene the original seven-member committee this week -- made up of board members and district employees, including the two middle school principals -- and hopefully have a recommendation for a vote on Tuesday next week.