CLEVELAND — After a year-long review, the Cleveland school board has approved the name changes of three CSMD schools: Patrick Henry School, Louis Agassiz Pre-K-8 School, and Thomas Jefferson Pre-K-12 International Newcomers Academy. The changes are the result of a district working group’s lengthy study that examined the process in which CMSD names its schools as well as a public engagement campaign to identify new names.
In the wake of nationwide unrest following the death of George Floyd in 2020, Cleveland City Councilmembers Kevin Conwell and Brian Mooney publicly raised issues with the names of several CMSD schools. By that point, the district had already begun a review of its school-naming policy.
In 2021, the CMSD working group established a set of guidelines regarding school names, including a requirement that the board will “not consider the names of people who have a documented history of enslaving other humans, or have actively [participated] in the institution of slavery, systemic racism and the oppression of people of color, women, other minority groups, or people who have been a member of a supremacist organization.”
On Tuesday, the school board approved three resolutions authorizing the name changes for the schools named after Patrick Henry, Louis Agassiz, and Thomas Jefferson.
Patrick Henry School will become Stephanie Tubbs Jones School — named after the native Clevelander and resident of Collinwood that went on to become a municipal court judge, county prosecutor, and, later, a US congresswoman. Jones passed in 2008.
“Students will be able to see someone that was successful and had the goodness of the community at heart — and that person looks just like them,” said Conwell (Ward 8). “African-American children shouldn’t go to a school that is named after a former oppressor of African-Americans.”
Louis Agassiz, the Swiss-American biologist, geologist and scientist is known for being a scholar of Earth’s natural history. Although his findings and processes earned him acclaim, his legacy has also been mired by his views on minorities, particularly Black people. Detractors point to the "scientific racism" prevalent in his work.
The school named after him will become Mary Church Terrell School — named after the internationally-known lecturer, educator, and activist for racial equality in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Terrell earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Oberlin College.
Thomas Jefferson Pre-K-12 International Newcomers Academy will become Natividad Pagan International Newcomers Academy. Pagan was an educator, administrator, and community leader in Cleveland and served as the principal of the school. Pagan was also the executive director of multilingual education at CMSD.
Conwell said the name changes will better reflect the community and serve as role models for the students.
“That is success that they will see and they can write about. Little African-American girls and little African-American boys are able to say, ‘I want to be Stephanie Tubbs Jones,’” Conwell said. “It’s from the community and for the community and has the goodness of the community at heart.”
The name changes will take effect before the 2022-2023 school year.