Public Hearings on Coolidge Corner School Naming
In June, the School Committee voted to rename the Coolidge Corner School after Florida Ruffin Ridley. A long-time resident of our community and the first African-American homeowner in Brookline, Ms. Ridley taught in the Boston Public Schools and was an intellectual leader for the African-American community and the Suffragist movement. After public hearings by the Town Naming Committee and the School Committee, Town Meeting Members will vote on the name change in November. Click here to learn more.
The public is invited to provide comment and feedback at the following meetings:
- Town Naming Committee Public Hearing: Wednesday, October 16, 7:00 p.m - 10:00 p.m., at the Coolidge Corner School Multipurpose Room, 345 Harvard Street
- School Committee Meeting: Thursday, October 17, 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m., at Brookline Town Hall, School Committee Room, 333 Washington Street, 5th Floor
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 Bott 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. The re-naming process will have six major steps:
- Outreach and Submission of Nominations
- Student Nominations Committee considers all nominations and identifies up to 10 "semi-finalists"
- School Committee Capital Subcommittee recommends up to three finalist names to the full School Committee
- School Committee selects one name and recommends it to the Town Naming Committee to be the permanent name of the school
- Town Naming Committee considers the recommended name. If it approves the name, the committee submits it to Town Meeting as a Warrant Article
- Town Meeting considers Warrant Article and votes on a recommended name.
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.