Marcy considers bid for late senator’s name

Public invited to

taken from the Southeast Angle

and Chris Steller

Is there a Wellstone Open School in Southeast?s future? The idea of renaming Marcy Open School in honor of U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone has been circulating at Marcy since last year?s plane crash that killed Wellstone and seven others.

Surveys show staff divided on the issue; parents favor the renaming by a 4:1 ratio, according to Julie Mattson Ostrow, a Marcy parent who sent surveys home with students. A survey of student opinion is also in the works, according to Principal Jane Ellis.

A community meeting to discuss the proposal is set for March 6, 6:30?8 p.m., at the school, 415 Fourth Ave. SE. The meeting, intended as a forum for the entire community, is open to the public. Ellis said it will help determine: ?Is this just an idea or something we want to put hard work and effort into? We?re a reflection of the community. It isn?t something we can do with an isolated viewpoint.?
The Minneapolis Public Schools? board of directors weighs support from the wider community when deciding whether to approve a new name.

?Parents, staff and students need to work with the neighborhood,? said board member Judy Farmer, a Southeast resident and former Marcy parent and staff member. She said consensus came easily when renaming West Central Academy after civil rights leader W. Harry Davis; the original was a geographic name designated by the district, that carried little meaning or loyalty in the area. The situation is more complicated here.

?Marcy Open has lots of graduates and loyalty,? Farmer said, adding that the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood is named after the school. Changing school names is rarely easy, she said. ?It?s not something that people like to do lightly.? A renaming dispute between a North Minneapolis neighborhood and school in 2000 resulted in a wordy compromise: Lucy Craft Laney at Cleveland Park Community School.

Farmer said the superintendent receives renaming requests and makes a recommendation on each to the school board, which votes on them. To some degree, she said, the board considers name change requests on a first-come, first-served basis. Last month, another Minneapolis public school staked a claim to the Wellstone name. The International Center for Accelerated Language Learning (ICALL), a school for English language learners ages 17?21, formally asked the school district to change its name in honor of the senator.

Six St. Paul public schools are vying for the name, according to Su Yeager, who is managing that city?s Wellstone renaming process, involving a special committee, applications and site visits.
People at Marcy, as at the other schools, identify with Wellstone. ?The philosophy of Marcy Open School is aligned with beliefs of the late Sen. Wellstone, such as social justice issues, political advocacy for everyone, diversity,? Ellis said, pointing out that Marcy is an International Peace Site, formally recognized as a school that reflects peace by advocating social skills, responsibility, service and values.

?People really do not want to risk the potential loss of identity that can happen with a name change,? agreed Jay Scoggin, a veteran Marcy teacher. ?Personally, I think the change would do us a lot of good?if people rallied around the reason to change. Changing a name does nothing. Defining and fortifying beliefs does everything.

Greg Krueger, a kindergarten teacher who will retire this spring after 30 years, said, ?I feel it would be a good opportunity to re-identify ourselves, complete with updated mission statement and vision. Making this consistent with Senator Wellstone?s vision for a better world could provide us with an outstanding outline and guidelines for truly engaging, enriching and compassionate curriculum.?

Had she found that William Marcy, a 19th-century public official, had any ties to Minnesota or Minneapolis, Ostrow said, she wouldn?t have pursued the change. The name Marcy has been attached to both the school and the neighborhood for many, many years. I truly want to be sensitive to the attachment people have to the name. I just want to ask the question.?

last revised: March 29, 2006