BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
The Palo Alto school board last night ruled out renaming Terman and Jordan middle schools after geographic features of the city, and will be going with two of the six historic Palo Altans selected by the district’s renaming committee.
Trustees Melissa Baten Caswell, Jennifer DiBrienza and Terry Godfrey said that each school ought to be renamed after one of the six notable Palo Altans selected by the committee.
But trustees Todd Collins and Ken Dauber said they favored giving the schools geographic names — Adobe Creek for Terman and Redwood Grove for Jordan.
The board decided last year to rename the schools because their namesakes, Lewis Terman and David Starr Jordan, were part of the eugenics movement. Collins suggested that instead of putting a name on the school, each of the six should be memorialized with plaques and a display inside the schools. He also suggested additional exhibits for other notable Palo Altans too.
One notable Palo Altan he mentioned was Fred Terman, who, along with his father, Lewis, is one of the namesakes for Terman Middle School. But due to potential confusion about which one the school is named after, keeping the name Terman was ruled out. Fred Terman was a Stanford provost and an electronics engineer.
Godfrey said that until yesterday morning, she favored naming the schools after geographic features. But during the day, she changed her mind and felt that having “real people be role models” is the right answer to the renaming situation.
A namesake can be an inspiration
Baten Caswell agreed with Godfrey, and said she went to a high school named after the woman who started it, and everyone at the school knew who its namesake was.
“I’m convinced that having the name of a person (as the schools namesake) is an inspiration,” Baten Caswell said.
Baten Caswell also said she wanted to poll the current families, teachers and students at Terman and Jordan to see how they reacted to the names the district’s renaming committee selected.
But none of the other board members supported the idea of polling the two schools, either saying it was too late in the process to do so, or that the renaming effort ought to involve the entire community, not just the smaller communities of the two schools.
“I don’t think of these two schools as belonging to the people there right now,” said DiBrienza.
DiBrienza also said that the students currently at Terman and Jordan will only be there for one to three more years, while a school’s name will transcend the people currently there for decades to come.
A citizens committee appointed by the board recommended naming the schools after the following people: Anna Zschokke, who built Palo Alto’s first school house in the 19th century; Hewlett-Packard co-founder Bill Hewlett; Edith Johnson, the city’s first female doctor; prominent black engineer Frank Greene; bicycle activist and Palo Alto councilwoman Ellen Fletcher, and Fred Yamamoto, a Paly graduate who was held in a Japanese internment camp and later fought in World War II. The name of Maryam Mirzakhani, a theoretical mathematician at Stanford who died of cancer in 2009, was originally on the committee’s list but was removed for unknown reasons before last night’s meeting.
Final choice due later this month
The board did not pick a name yesterday, but some board members stated their preferences. While Collins and Dauber both said they preferred the geographical names, DiBrienza said she liked Johnson, Fletcher, Greene and Yamamoto while Godfrey said she favored Yamamoto and Zschokke. Baten Caswell said she liked any of the six historical figures’ names.
The board is slated to pick new names for Terman and Jordan at its March 27 meeting.