By Mary Spicer
Beginning July 1, 2013, the two-story red brick structure on the northwest corner of South Main and Linden streets will once again be officially known as Second District Elementary School.
The decision, with seven members of the nine-member Crawford Central School Board voting in the majority, came Monday night before an audience of more than a dozen as the board’s monthly meeting was drawing to a close.
Frank Schreck, acting in his capacity as chair of the board’s buildings and grounds committee, moved that the board change the name of the school to Second District.
Although that has been the name of the structure occupying the corner lot since its construction more than 80 years ago, the school occupying the structure has been officially known in Pennsylvania Department of Education records as East End Elementary School and unofficially known as “East End Elementary School at Second District Elementary School” since late last summer.
The Department of Education instituted the change as the result of a major reconfiguration of the district’s Meadville attendance area to accommodate the entire student body from West End Elementary School at the Second District building while West End underwent a year-long renovation and expansion during the 2011-12 school year. During the reconfiguration, students from the Second District attendance area were reassigned to other city schools, with approximately one-third attending East End. With the West End construction complete, students, teachers, faculty and staff who had occupied East End during the 2011-12 school year moved en masse to the Second District building at the beginning of the current school year.
Because a form was not submitted to PDE designating a name for the school after the West Enders moved out, the department moved the East End name along with that school’s former occupants after the district officially closed the East End building and moved everyone to Linden and South Main.
One by one, Jon DeArment, Carol Jones, Kevin Maziarz, Jeff Deardorff, Mitch Roe, Schreck and Jan VanTuil cast votes in the affirmative. Richard Curry cast the sole dissenting vote and David Miller was absent.
During the public comment session that preceded the voting portion of the meeting, Meadville resident Sam Byrd, an outspoken proponent of retaining the Second District name, noted that he was looking forward to hearing position statements from the board members before the vote was taken, since no discussion of the topic took place last week during the board’s study session.
Once the proposed resolution had been moved and seconded, board members attempted to comply with Byrd’s request. Roe began, noting that he had taught at Second District for six years early in his teaching career and that his wife taught there for 32 years. “I cannot think of one reason we would want to change that name,” he said.
“I said I won’t change any school names unless we change all the elementary names to P.S. 1 through P.S. 5,” Schreck said. “It is what it is,” he added, noting that a big piece of limestone on the front of the school says “Second District.”
“They want to preserve memories of the school,” Richard Curry said, speaking of what he described as “numerous” comments from people protesting the change.
Curry went on to say that the people who want to hold on to their memories aren’t involved with the school anymore, while “parents who proposed a change are movers and shakers at East End Elementary School.” Those seeking the name change, he continued, are the ones who go to the school to help the teachers, volunteer in the library, join the PTO and paid for the school’s new playground equipment.
“Do we support memories of an older generation — or the memory makers of today’s reality?” Curry asked.
When Roe said that he took offense to Curry’s comments, “Let’s vote,” Maziarz said.
The vote immediately followed. The audience received the decision in silence.
VanTuil announced that the name change will take effect July 1, 2013, and thanked the committee that investigated the name change for its efforts and the community for its input.
“I personally do hope that the celebration of Elias Allen will continue,” VanTuil added, referring to the individual whose name had been proposed as an alternative to Second District. Under the title “Desegregation of Pennsylvania Schools,” a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission plaque erected in front of the school in 2000 notes that “An event here in September 1880 led to the end of segregation by race in the state’s public schools. At the South Ward school (which previously occupied the property), Elias Allen tried unsuccessfully to enroll his two children. He appealed to the Crawford County Court of Common Pleas, and Judge Pearson Church declared unconstitutional the 1854 state law mandating separate schools for Negro children. This law was amended, effective July 4, 1881, to prohibit such segregation.”
VanTuil stressed that Allen’s contribution should be celebrated in all of Crawford Central’s schools.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.