New middle school names proposed to board

    Members of the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education confer after hearing the Jordan Middle School and Terman Middle School name nominations, which focused on diversity and inclusiveness. “It’s their [the nominees’] ability to overcome adversity, and to be courageous, and to work for the common good… that seems to be the common theme to me,” Board Member Terry Godfrey said. Photo: Allie Feitzinger

    Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education members are one step closer to choosing new names for Terman Middle School and Jordan Middle School, as well as a new superintendent, after meeting on March 13.

    The Recommending School Names Advisory Committee presented its final eight recommendations, six of which were the names of individuals, while two were based on geographical locations in Palo Alto. The nominations are: Ellen Fletcher, Edith “Eugenie” Johnson, Frank Greene, Jr., Fred Yamamoto, William Hewlett, Anna Zschokke, Adobe Creek, and Redwood Grove.

    Each contender was considered for its “innovation, integrity, and inclusion,” connection to the community, and legacy. Further information and criteria on the candidates can be found on the here.

    “I think it’s about time to give our students the opportunity to learn about the real heroes and heroines of our community,” said Terry Fletcher, daughter of nominee Ellen Fletcher.

    Both committee and community members voiced support for naming one of the schools for Fred Yamamoto, a second-generation Japanese American and Palo Alto High School graduate who was killed in action during World War II.

    Many believe Yamamoto to be an exceptional reflection of the values of Palo Alto and an inspirational figure.

    “The committee strongly believes that he is an excellent role model for our students and an inspiring representative of the best of Palo Alto,” said Sarah Armstrong, a member of the RSNAC.

    While most board and community members remained adamant about naming the schools after individuals, board members Todd Collins and Ken Dauber hope to avoid future controversy by instead naming the middle schools based on local geography.

    “I see a downside in choosing [individuals’] names, and I think there’s a large part of the community that wants us not to choose names and never have to talk about it again,” Collins said.

    The Board also discussed the recent mid-cycle progress reports of both Paly and Henry M. Gunn High School. Katya Villalobos, a Paly administrator on special assignment, and Gunn Principal Kathleen Laurence jointly presented the administrations’ findings.

    Additionally, the board touched upon the status of the superintendent search. According to the board, candidates have undergone initial interviews, but the search will continue and members of the school board will compile a list of candidates for an advisory committee.

    “This [the superintendent search] is the most important decision that we make while we’re sitting here,” Collins said.

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