(Left: Principal Buller and Vice Principal Ola with the Bee-lievers of Change; Right: The Bee-lievers of Change presenting the finalists to the School Committee)
One year ago, Brookline Town Meeting acknowledged that it is no longer acceptable to name a school after a person who held another human in slavery and voted to change the name of the Edward Devotion School. This important decision temporarily changed the name of the school to the Coolidge Corner School and launched a community-wide process to identify a new name that better represents Brookline’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. At the School Committee meeting on Wednesday, May 29, this process reached an important milestone when our Student Nominations Committee – the Bee-lievers of Change – announced the names of the four finalists for the school’s new name:
As the student members of the Nominations Committee so capably explained in front of the public and the School Committee, these four leaders are examples of courage, dedication, and a commitment to enduring causes; each of them is worthy of the honor. These leaders – a civil rights activist, a tenor, a politician, and a suffragist – all have close ties to Brookline, with three of them having lived here and the fourth working in Brookline in her efforts to desegregate area schools. In selecting four finalists from the 15 semi-finalists, the Nominations Committee also responded to community input to recognize a person who supported education, made a positive impact on their local community, and embodied the school’s values of work hard, be kind, and help others. The four finalists are an impressive group of individuals whose contributions have been minimized, dismissed, or forgotten entirely until a Brookline community member put their name forward. We can all be proud that one of our most important public facilities will be named after one of these four impressive individuals.
Our community should also be proud of the dedicated and hard-working group of students who have served on the Nominations Committee and led the process so far. As they presented the finalists to the public, these young leaders’ commitment to the process, seriousness of purpose, and extensive work shined through. They have stepped up, fully embraced their role as leaders, and are an example for all of Brookline of how to work together respectfully.
Our student leaders considered 119 unique nominations that were submitted by more than 250 community members. The students researched all nominations, assessed them against defined criteria, and narrowed down the options to 15 semi-finalists. At three open and public community Naming Nights, these students met with hundreds of community members, teaching them about the 15 semi-finalists, listening to input and feedback, and engaging in respectful dialogue. More than 200 people submitted feedback on the semi-finalists and provided input on how the Nominations Committee should decide on finalists. The students considered each semifinalist in light of the input they received from community members.
Identifying these finalists has been the result of a thoughtful, thorough, and community oriented process that has been focused on the Coolidge Corner School community while also including the larger Brookline community.
What Happens Next?
From here much of the process is guided by the Town’s by-laws for naming public buildings. The School Committee has planned three opportunities for public feedback:
- Public Hearing: Thursday, June 6 at 7:00 p.m. on the 5th Floor of Brookline Town Hall, 333 Washington Street
- Evening Listening Session: Thursday, June 13 at 7:00 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room of the Coolidge Corner School, 345 Harvard Street
- Morning Listening Session: Monday, June 17 at 8:15 a.m in the Cafeteria of the Coolidge Corner School, 345 Harvard Street
Members of the community are encouraged to attend any session to share their thoughts about which finalist the school should be named for. The School Committee will recommend one of the four finalists to the Town Naming Committee. The Town Naming Committee will consider the recommendation and may have a public hearing before considering whether or not to recommend the name to Town Meeting. Ultimately, Town Meeting must vote to approve the naming of any Town building. The timeline for the remainder of this process is still being determined. We will post the timeline and update the community when the timeline is finalized.
In addition to the students on the Nominations Committee many others have played a central role in the naming process to date. I want to thank Principal Jennifer Buller and Vice Principal Saeed Ola for supporting, guiding, and mentoring the student leaders every step of the way. I would also like to thank the original petitioners, Deborah Brown and Anne Greenwald, who met with the Nominations Committee and have been great allies throughout this entire process. We have also received excellent support and input from an Ad Hoc Working Group that includes parents, teachers, district administrators, town residents, and the original petitioners. They have provided guidance and insight throughout the process and helped extensively with public outreach.
We are only part way through this journey and hope that you and many other community members will engage in the process in the coming months. Please look out for the public hearings and other ways to provide input on the finalists in the coming months.
For more complete information about the process, please visit the Coolidge Corner Renaming website at www.brookline.k12.ma.us/
Andrew J. Bott