Meadville Tribune

Local News

November 13, 2012

Crawford Central: Two sides advocate for naming rights to school

VERNON TOWNSHIP — Members of Crawford Central School Board heard presentations from representatives of two groups of residents with two different ideas about a suitable name for the school at the corner of South Main and Linden streets in downtown Meadville now officially known as “East End @ Second District Elementary School.”

Using the name “Second District School” was the recommendation of the first group to speak. Calling the school “Elias Allen Elementary School” was the recommendation of the second. By prior agreement, each presentation was limited to five minutes.

After hearing both presentations during the board’s monthly work session Monday night, “I would think we would be ready to put this decision to rest,” President Jan VanTuil said, noting that she hoped the board would make its decision official during its upcoming monthly meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at the district’s Instructional Support Center in Vernon Township.

“There is no need for board discussion,” board member Richard Curry said. “We can simply vote on Monday.”

Without discussion, board members concurred.

When the board convenes Monday, the text of a resolution with a blank for the name of the school will be included on the agenda. When a resolution including the new name has been moved and seconded, there will be an opportunity for board discussion before the vote is taken. If the first resolution fails, it is expected that another resolution — proposing a different name — will follow.

Following is the full text of both statements made to the board Monday night, in the order they were presented.

Keep the name ‘Second District School’

Following is the full text of the statement presented by Melissa Burnett, then handed to The Tribune:

We have been given five minutes to substantiate and defend the name of Second District School. It would be interesting and thought provoking if the school building could talk. One would wonder what it would have to say.

Let us use our imagination and give a listen to Second District School as it speaks to us:

I was born in 1930 with the helping hands of hard laborers for the purpose of serving the Second District section of Meadville. My inhabitants would come from a very cultural diversified part of a proud community. I even had a gymnasium — the first in town. I had the opportunity to listen to the first Boys Choir in the city. I was so proud because I would be the first building in the state to be desegregated. I am 82 years old now — and I have observed literally thousands of students matriculate through my halls to become worthy, productive members of our society. Now, there are people who want to take away my name and demolish the many fine attributes I have been a part of.

It is my understanding they named me because of my location in town as they did with the other schools. I thought that made a great deal of sense because it would be helpful for residents and visitors to locate me.

I have been told that some people want to change my name so students could be given a “new start.” I suppose they feel by changing my name, the students will automatically learn better. I have observed the beginning of 82 school years and each and every one of them presented a new and fresh start for the children. And do you know — the children mingled beautifully and my name never had to be changed. I did discover however, that teachers, administration, and parents would make a difference in the educational process. I firmly believe each new school year will present that “new start” and I feel confident changing my name would not make a difference.

It was very sad and sorrowful for me to experience the closing of other schools in my district at various times for financial and other reasons. But I was happy to receive the many students from these schools and I, as well as other schools, welcomed them with open arms. The children adjusted beautifully as they usually do, and never was there a debate or suggestion of changing any school’s name.

In my experience since 1930, I have discovered that all schools develop a pride in their building. Any attempt to remove that pride could possibly generate divisiveness and possibly divide a community when we should all be working together. Is it a good idea to initiate a precedent that does nothing to enhance the educational process?

I feel badly because a few people want to change my name. I feel I am being punished for something I did not do. I have watched as my students were taken from me and placed in other schools so it would be easier for that school. Then — when my students were returned — they attempted to remove my identity by changing my name. They even called me “labeled” and said I had a “stigma.” I have a powerful feeling my students for the last 82 years might take offense to that.

And finally, I feel sad because the school board would need to use tax payers’ dollars to change my name. I feel sad because our school district could better use that money for programs that would be more helpful than changing a name. I know for sure — I would be most happy if you would let my legacy continue and allow me to keep the name I was born with — Second District School.

I recognize that you have listened to all sorts of talk for all sorts of things pertaining to schools. I feel very proud that I can speak for the many supporters of Second District School. But I am especially pleased that you have taken the time to listen to a school building speak. I thank you for that honor.

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