Should Woodrow Wilson Elementary School be renamed after former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama?
Some parents and students at the school, which is operating on a temporary campus in El Cerrito while its permanent campus is being rebuilt at 629 42nd St. in Richmond, say yes. In a September letter, PTA President Maisha Cole asked the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) Board of Trustees to consider changing the school’s current name recognizing Woodrow Wilson, the nation’s 28th president, to honor the influential wife of Barack Obama, the 44th president.
An ad hoc board committee is set to meet and consider the name change at Grant Elementary, 2400 Downer Ave. in Richmond, on Thursday, Jan. 9, at 6 p.m., according to WCCUSD. A second meeting on the issue will occur Jan. 23 at a yet-announced location.
In recent years, President Wilson’s legacy has been under attack on school campuses over his pro-segregation acts while as president from 1913 to 1921. Students at Princeton University and also Wilson High in Washington D.C. have made passionate calls to scrub the name Woodrow Wilson from facilities. Princeton’s Board of Trustees ultimately decided to keep the name — Wilson was a president of the university. For a biography on the WWI-era president, a complicated figure famous for enacting antitrust laws, establishing the Federal Reserve System and winning the Nobel Peace Prize for helping form the League of Nations, go here.
In her letter to WCCUSD, Cole said the upcoming state-of-the-art campus on 42nd Street provides a fresh start for the school, which deserves a new name.
“We are prepared to testify as to why we feel that the current name does not reflect who we are as a community, as well as why the name we are proposing is much more fitting,” Cole’s letter states.
As outlined by WCCUSD Board policy, district facilities can be renamed after individuals who are living or deceased, who have made outstanding contributions to the WCCUSD or the educational community, or who have made contributions of state, national or worldwide significance. Names can also recognize geographic areas in which the school or building is located. The policy also states the “renaming of existing schools or major facilities shall occur only under extraordinary circumstances and after thorough study.”