In June we will hold TWO votes using ranked choice voting:


    • The first will be a PRACTICE vote, to make sure our voting system is working. We will be voting on our favorite type of ice cream flavor. The practice vote will happen June 1 and 2.
    • The second vote will be to decide our new school name! The school name vote will take place June 8 and 9.


    Who can vote? Current students, current staff, and current families. Students will vote at school during the school day. We sincerely hope that you will have these conversations at home and talk about the merits of each candidate before casting your votes!


    BIG Announcement! Our Four Finalists!

    After careful deliberation, significant time doing research, and lots of introspection, the Student School Naming Committee is excited to announce our four finalists for our new school name! The finalists are (in alphabetical order):


    • Ruth Batson
    • Ellen & William Craft
    • Roland Hayes
    • John Woodrow Wilson

    RB Adult

    RB Kids

    Ruth Batson: Founder of METCO

    Ruth Batson was born in 1921 to parents who moved to Roxbury, MA, from Jamaica. As a teacher and a mother, she believed that everyone deserves a great education. 

    Batson saw that at the time the Boston schools didn’t treat Black students equally. Black students in Boston didn't get the same opportunities as other students. So, in 1965, she helped start a program called METCO. This program lets students go to schools in different towns where they can get a better education. Brookline was one of the first towns to join METCO. Now over 30 towns have joined METCO.

    For her whole life, Batson worked to see that everyone would be treated equally. She was an equal rights leader in Boston and all over Massachusetts. She worked with groups like the NAACP and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination to fight for equal rights.

    After starting METCO, she started an organization called the Ruth M. Batson Educational Foundation. The Foundation gives money for a better education for Black students, schools, and groups. In 1976, she returned to Boston University to get her Master's degree in Education.

    Did You Know? Batson also worked with John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and George McGovern when they ran for President.

    Quote: “When we fight about education, we’re fighting for our lives.” - Ruth Batson

    JW Adult

    JW Kids

    John Woodrow Wilson: Artist

    John Woodrow Wilson was born in 1922 to parents who came to Roxbury, MA, from Guyana. He loved art and used it to express himself. After college, Wilson traveled around the world. He went to France and Mexico to further develop his talents in painting and sculpture.

    When Wilson returned to the US in the 1950s, he was immediately selected to teach at BU’s College for the Arts. He began creating works that showed the hardships he and other Black people faced. These difficulties include lynching, poverty, discrimination, and other social issues. 

    He also used his art to celebrate the lives of Black people. One of Wilson's most famous artworks is a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Wilson created this sculpture to honor Dr. King and his contributions to American history. Most importantly, he hopes his works inspire others to learn and make people think.  Wilson and his family moved to Brookline in 1964 to raise their children. He would stay in Brookline until his passing in 2015. Today, many places display and celebrate Wilson's art.. These locations include the US Capitol Building, the Museum of Fine Art, Roxbury Community College  and Brookline Town Hall.

    Did You Know? The first place President Obama visited after his inauguration was the rotunda of the US Capital to visit the statue of MLK, Jr., sculpted by John Wilson.

    Quote: "...[Wilson's] main objective as an artist was to deliver a message to people about Black dignity, about racial justice, about poor people trying to get a better deal in life." - Judith Kowitch Wilson

    EWC Adult

    EWC Kids

    Ellen and William Craft: Self-Emancipated Educators, Activists

    Born into slavery in Georgia, Ellen and William Craft were both torn away from their loved ones when they were about ten and eleven—Ellen from her mother, William from his parents and siblings. Ellen and William met and fell in love as teenagers, but Ellen did not want to get married, for fear of having children who could be taken from them. Eventually they did marry, promising that they would one day escape together, both in order to have children in freedom, and also to pursue an education. 

    In 1848, they finally came up with an ingenious plan: Ellen would disguise herself as a wealthy, disabled white man, while William would pose as a slave. Together in this disguise, they traveled more than 1,000 miles to the North. Then they traveled more than 1,000 miles more, telling their story and teaching Americans about the horrors of slavery. 

    Just as they were settled in Boston and ready to start school, slave hunters came in pursuit, and their case soon became a test for the nation. After protesting and then going into hiding—including in Brookline—they fled to England, where they achieved their dreams of having free children and being educated. While abroad, they wrote a book about their escape. William also founded a school in Africa. 

    But that was not the end, because after the Civil War, they returned to Georgia, where they bought land, started a farming community, and built a school for the newly free, passing on education that they had longed for as children. Throughout their lives, the Crafts fought for education, freedom and justice, not just for themselves, but for others. 

    Did You Know? Ellen’s disguise as a white man included putting her arm in a sling—to help hide the fact that she could not write or read. 

    Quote:  “I fled from them because they would not give me my rights as a human being. I could never learn anything, neither to read nor to write.” Ellen Craft

    RH Adult

    RH Kids

    Roland Hayes: Musician 

    Roland Hayes was born in 1887 to farmers in Curryville, GA. He first learned how to sing by attending church as a child. Hayes' voice impressed many people. With only five years of schooling, he was admitted to Fisk University where he joined the famous Fisk Jubilee Singers. 


    Hayes believed in himself and his ability. When the Fisk singers performed in Boston, Hayes chose to remain here for further voice training, becoming renowned for his vocal talents. At the beginning some orchestras and concert halls would not let him perform, because he was Black. By the 1920’s, he had become one of the best classical tenors in the world. In his sold-out concerts, he sang different kinds of music; audiences were amazed when he sang songs from Italy, Germany, and France. Hayes was proud of being Black, so he always included African-American folk songs and spirituals in his programs. 


    Hayes believed that music was crucial to understanding and expressing yourself. During his tours, he would also try to find time to visit local schools and meet with musical students. Hayes encouraged them to incorporate their cultures and histories into their singing. He performed his last concert at 85 in Cambridge, MA.


    He and his family lived in Brookline for many years.

    Did You Know? Hayes was the first African-American soloist to appear with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1923.


    Quote: "The beauty of what could be done with the voice just overwhelmed me.” - Roland Hayes


    Learning from Experts

    The videos below capture four important we have had here with folks who are expert in the lives of our finalists. We hope you'll take the time to watch and learn!


    We are so thankful for these partners who graciously shared their time and expertise with us!


    Here are resources for each candidate (again, alphabetically):

    Ruth Batson


    Ellen & William Craft


    Roland Hayes


    John Wilson


    We are very excited by this news and hope you are, too!


    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:

    Roland Hayes

    Bernard Pendleton (former art teacher)

    Ellen & William Craft

    Heddy Lamarr

    Michael Dukakis

    Francis Ouimet

    Edward Kirrane


    Eunice Kennedy Shriver

    Bill Russell

    Manuel Del Valle Jr

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg

    Frederick Law Olmsted

    Ruth Batson

    Sybil Holmes

    John Wilson

    The Settlement 

    Montowampate (aka Sagamore James)



    Judith Heumann

    Charles Sprague Sargent

    Quabbin Reservoir

    Harriet Tubman

    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 Haveas 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

    *** More Perspective on Indigenous Nominees

    In the spirit of reflection and reconciliation, the BHS student newspaper, The Sagamorehas 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 not 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:

    Of note: 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

    Memo: Survey Results: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JXsUw5d-j80QDajyx-MERtpL6rLKPxolr7Q9lj69Y_I/edit?usp=sharing

    Recordings of the three Community Conversations we have remain up and on YouTube for your viewing.  Find them here:

    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