Heath School Name Committee – Mission Statement: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JuPSxey6XkzUkC6vgylUo2j_GL7SSz2c2BdWy_e8Efo/edit?usp=sharing
We invite you into a conversation about identity and recognition, the history of slavery in our community, deepening our commitment to school safety, and complex change.
Our school holds a prominent place in our community. The school building is nestled squarely in a quiet neighborhood, creating a safe harbor for all students, whether from right down the block or coming each day from Boston. Generations of children have established their educational foundations here, while their families have turned to this space with great trust, boundless hope, and expectations for excellence. Countless teachers have made this place their professional home, dedicating part or all of their careers to the work inside these walls.
This school has played a central role in so many lives for over 100 years.
In the very recent past, we learned that our school had indeed been named after a street, but that the street had been named after a family: the Heath family. The Heath family took tremendous pride in the school on their street. They also, according to Town records, enslaved five people.
Knowing that our beloved school is named for a family that enslaved other humans has made it increasingly difficult to promote our vision for inclusion and equity.
This virtual space is intended to serve as a source of information, updates, and resources so that we can collectively understand the role of slavery in our community, the impact on our school, create a vision of ourselves more aligned with our current values, and build as safe a community as possible for those in our care.
Reckoning with this past is essential to building a better future for our students.
Choosing a New School Name
Naming a school is important. A school name should represent the spirit, virtues, and soul of its community. As community members, we have a unique responsibility and an incredible opportunity to choose a name that we can honor and celebrate.
The new name we choose should:
Uplift a person, place, or event that exemplifies those core beliefs and reflects our community’s past, present, and future (see Town Bylaws)
Reaffirm our commitment to fostering an equity-focused, aspirational, inclusive, and mindful community
Demonstrate our commitment to Brookline as a great place to learn and grow
Be an exemplar for students in our care now and for those students to come
Recognize the contributions of all people to the town’s rich history
(Announced December 9, 2022) Here, at last, is the "List of Nominees for New School Names;" I also shared this list at Tuesday's PTO meeting. These nominees have not been vetted yet; this is simply a list of all the nominees we received in our open process. We had 29 submissions, with 23 unique nominees.
In no particular order, here are the nominees:
Bernard Pendleton (former art teacher)
Ellen & William Craft
Eunice Kennedy Shriver
Manuel Del Valle Jr
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Frederick Law Olmsted
Montowampate (aka Sagamore James)
Charles Sprague Sargent
Here you will find a data spreadsheet where lots of information about candidates has been gathered: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1So1gLBh85cDVbXDGooMvMP6LEMWJ1W1UZXM1aL9oaAQ/edit?usp=sharing
January 20, 2023
Update on School Renaming Efforts
Our student committee, with students in grades 4 - 10 in attendance, has been working carefully in so many ways to determine a path forward for us in the school renaming process. One of their first orders of business was to consider a more specific criteria for selecting a candidate. The student committee members, along with adult guides, believe the following criteria will serve us well and we begin to narrow the field of finalists:
Required, by Town Bylaws
- Person, Place, or Event
Required, as recommended by Student Committee in partnership with adult committee members:
- Connection to Greater Boston and Brookline
- A helper. Someone who contributed to the community and made a positive impact
- A connection to education and/or commitment to educating others
- *** Not an Indigenous Name. As our school has no historical or current connection to Indigenous Peoples, other than sitting on Native land, we do not want to appropriate Indigenous names or culture for our own gains
Nice to Have, as recommended by Student Committee in partnership with adult committee members:
- Represented elsewhere? We strive to recognize those who are underrepresented in our community
- Is the candidate a Person of Color? We strive to recognize those who are historically underrepresented in our community
- Is the person still living? Has the person passed? The preference is someone who has passed as we can examine their entire life, contributions, and impact
In the spirit of reflection and reconciliation, the BHS student newspaper, The Sagamore, has begun the process of changing its name. I found this article in their archives that really was illuminating, too: link. Knowing this, recognizing that the student committee does not feel it is appropriate, and in consultation with Indigenous groups an Indigenous name will not forward as a finalist for our school. Thus, Sagamore James, Massasoit, and the Quabbin Reservoir will be in consideration moving forward.
Here, again, is the resources page on our website that lists all of the candidates: link. A great family activity might be to look at the criteria above and start to see who on our complete nominees list meet the criteria and who does not.
One of our candidates, Ellen & William Craft, have been in the news lately. Check out the CBS Sunday Morning piece on them:
: early in our process, Mr. Bernie Pendleton, the art teacher here for 30 years, was listed as a nominee. Mr. Pendleton was appreciative of the consideration, but humbly declined the honor. We remain grateful for his service to our community!
Many of you might have questions or comments about the Heath School name, the history of the name, and the renaming process. We hope that after you explore the resources here, and that if you have additional questions or want to share a comment you’ll then submit those questions and comments here: https://forms.gle/fE6Ezs2MHdsDcd199. We will then work to provide information on the next steps in the process and clarity on the lingering questions in the community.
Announcement: Heath Renaming Process, October 18, 2022: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hRYm9JiYdGxQB2UAluHJwwcNRrOxW_xQ5i1_5-PBxL8/edit?usp=sharing
Letter to the Community, December 13, 2021: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1taybMj47qgIK-rjFjNl-1ES0aHpueS04YlRHwD8yIHM/edit?usp=sharing
Brookline History: Schools, Brookline History Schools.pdf
Florence Palmer Peabody’s “When I Went to School” (from the Dedication of the New Heath School, 1959):
Florida Ruffin Ridley Renaming Process: Coolidge Corner Naming Process
Harmony Grove (Framingham Public Schools) Renaming Process, About Us / Renaming Our School
Hidden Brookline’s Website, HIDDEN BROOKLINE
Hidden Brookline, The Heath Family: Slavery and Inherited Wealth: https://hiddenbrookline.weebly.com/heath-the-school--the-family.html
From “The Slave Holding History of Brookline and Implications for the Heath School,”3.19.19 Ad Hoc Task Force Agenda and Materials.pdf
School Naming Committees: Meeting Notes and Agendas, SY23: https://docs.google.com/document/d/11byTg8xuHg0aUptdSDt1Y8BHsKcZAlKdVDKl9jJHWK8/edit?usp=sharing
School naming Committee: Zoom Sessions: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/12o38OgAHBeExObFSHBNFqrkB4vEMmKCU?usp=sharing
Heath School Name: Dinner Conversation Starters & More! https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qNBB1Sm6adNvJgthciEyFpBLX_Rd_a7Q2ZojgpYPqeA/edit?usp=sharing
Recordings of the three Community Conversations we have remain up and on YouTube for your viewing. Find them here:
From March 16, 2022 – Hidden Brookline
From March 29, 2022 – The Heath School Name Dialogue
From April 5, 2022 – Florida Ruffin Ridley School Renaming Process
Student Work & Learning
Student Learning Opportunities – https://docs.google.com/document/d/1kLyNHznibtjfJD3ZiIDmohdmZ14SpYO1hlXVNkcb-vo/edit?usp=sharing
8th Grade Student Presentations, Spring 2022: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1e61Q6h5lx_A3NdYoaGxSppiH2Z9hePEn8neNI3esreE/edit?usp=sharing
4th Grade, Letters to Town Meeting Members, Spring 2022: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HAuCaxqNOxYoEdhaSBUsLC7UN2wnfwySGGqfaXWyV1s/edit?usp=sharing