Coolidge Corner Naming Process

  • This year, Brookline and the Coolidge Corner School Community will work together to choose a new name for the Coolidge Corner School.  This is an exciting opportunity for Brookline and the school community. We welcome everyone's participation!
     

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    October 2019 Second Update: Town Naming Committee, School Committee supports Finalist Name

    The Town Naming Committee and the School Committee has voted to recommend Warrant Article 26 - to name the Coolidge Corner School the Florida Ruffin Ridley School - to Town Meeting Members at their Fall 2019 Meeting.

    Each committee held a public hearing (on Wednesday, October 16 and Thursday, October 17 respectively) to solicit feedback from community members prior to taking their vote. PSB students, staff, parents, and alumni were in attendance for both meetings to support naming the school after Mrs. Ridley, a long-time resident of our community and the first African-American homeowner in Brookline. Interim Superintendent Ben Lummis, School Committee members Suzanne Federspiel, Barbara Scotto, and David Pearlman, CCS principal Jennifer Buller, CCS students from the nomination committee, and the original petitioners to rename the school - Deborah Brown and Anne Greenwald - were also present to highlight Mrs. Ridley’s accomplishments and the work PSB has done to identify a new school name.

    In total, over thirty people commented during these meetings. Many commented on the transparency and thoroughness of this process, as well as the leadership and educational opportunities provided to students through the nominations committee.

    The Town’s by-laws state that the new name of a school building must be recommended by the School Committee to the Town’s Naming Committee. If approved by the Naming Committee, the proposed name is submitted to Town Meeting as a Warrant Article and is voted on by Town Meeting. As of October 18, 2019, the naming process has reached its final step:

    1. Outreach and Submission of Nominations (Completed in February 2019)

    2. Student Nominations Committee considers all nominations and identifies "semi-finalists" (Completed in April 2019)

    3. After receiving public input, the Student Nominations Committee recommends finalist names to the full School Committee (Completed in May 2019)

    4. School Committee selects one name and recommends it to the Town Naming Committee to be the permanent name of the school (Completed in June 2019)

    5. Town Naming Committee considers the recommended name. If it approves the name, the committee submits it to Town Meeting as a Warrant Article (Completed in October 2019)

    6. Town Meeting considers Warrant Article and votes on a recommended name. (Pending November 2019)


    The final decision to name the Coolidge Corner School the Florida Ruffin Ridley School (as filed under 2019 Fall Town Meeting Warrant Article 26) will ultimately be decided by Town Meeting Members in the Fall 2019 meeting. To learn more about the town meeting process, please visit this link: (www.brooklinema.gov/townmeeting)

    To access previous updates on the Naming Process, please follow this link.


    Overview & Background

    Renaming an existing school is a rare and special opportunity. Naming a school requires a high standard; one that is above and beyond naming a street or another type of public building. In our schools, we ask students to assume the identity of the building’s namesake. A school name is an important part of a child’s identity and that connection stays with them for years, if not decades.

    The School Committee and Superintendent would like the town to take this unique opportunity and use it to not just pick a new name, but to thoughtfully identify a name that reflects the school’s past, present, and future embodies its core values and inspires students for decades to come. The process needs to be guided by the school’s core values, allow for naming suggestions from the current school community and the broader public in Brookline, and consider closely the issues raised during the Town’s decision to change the school name including the history of slavery and racism in Brookline and the need to more accurately recognize the contributions of people of color to the town’s rich history. 

    The Town’s by-laws state that the new name of a school building must be recommended by the School Committee to the Town’s Naming Committee. If approved by the Naming Committee, the proposed name is submitted to Town Meeting as a Warrant Article and is voted on by Town Meeting. It is up to the School Committee to determine the process it uses to identify a recommended name for a school building.

    Edward Devotion, for whom the school was originally named, was a slaveholder. In May 2018, by voting to change the name of the Devotion School, Town Meeting decided that it is no longer appropriate to name a school after a person who holds another in bondage, and to continue to do so would undermine the core values of equity, mutual respect, and inclusion that our public schools strive to impart on our students.  

    In creating the naming process, the School Committee and Superintendent Bott have received input from Coolidge Corner educators and parents, the petitioners who proposed the name change, Devotion School alumni, the members of the Town’s Ad Hoc Task Force on School Names and others to help them create an open and inclusive process. The process will be open to the public and will allow all community members to participate, especially those who have been marginalized historically.

    Renaming the Devotion School is another step in the Town’s continuing efforts to recognize the strength of its diversity and the contributions of people of color to the town’s rich history. Since 2006, when the Hidden Brookline Committee was established, community members have been working to better understand and bring to light the history of slavery and freedom in Brookline. Hidden Brookline’s work led to Town Meeting’s passing, in 2012, of a warrant article called “A Resolution Regarding Slavery in Brookline: that acknowledged the history of slavery in Brookline and pledged “vigilance against all practices and institutions that dehumanize and discriminate against people.” Also as a result of Hidden Brookline’s work, the Public Schools of Brookline’s 3rd-grade social studies curriculum contains a unit about slavery in Brookline that includes the history of Edward Devotion being a slaveholder. More recently, in 2017, the Town entered into a compact with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE).  This compact commits the Town to strive toward racial equity in all facets of its operations and policies and to work with community partners in reducing racism in all of its forms.

    A complete summary of the process, as approved by the School Committee in their September 13, 2018 meeting, can be accessed here. Renaming the Coolidge Corner School was first discussed by the School Committee in May 31, 2018 (link) following the May 2018 Town Meeting. Subsequent discussions regarding the process were also discussed by the School Committee on their June 7, 2018 (link), June 19, 2018 (link), July 9, 2018 (link), and August 22, 2018 (link) meetings before its final approval on September 13, 2018 as outlined above.


    Click here to learn more about the naming process. You may also submit questions via this online form