NEW ROCHELLE, NY — New Rochelle has ten public schools, one with no name (New Rochelle High School) three named for past school officials (Albert Leonard Middle School, Isaac E. Young Middle School and George M. Davis Jr. Elementary School), one for a street (Trinity Elementary School), one for a bread baker (William B. Ward Elementary School), one for an educator from Connecticut (Barnard Early Childhood Center), two for elected officials with no connection to New Rochelle (Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, Daniel Webster Elementary School) and a 15th-16th century explorer (Christopher Columbus Elementary School).
Only four of these people have a substantive connection to New Rochelle: Albert Leonard and Isaac E. Young were the first two Superintendents of Schools in New Rochelle, George M. Davis Jr. was a School Board President, William B. Ward was a businessman who donated property to the City of New Rochelle and the City School District of New Rochelle.
In a school district that claims to champion diversity and pride in New Rochelle, there is a stunning lack of diversity among the people honored with school names and little sense of local pride in prominent New Rochelleans. The 8 people who have public schools named for them share a common thread: white men.
Few seem to question why these schools were named for school board members, or historical figures with no connection to the City of New Rochelle. Or why there are no women. Or no African-Americans in a city with a long history of prominent African-American residents.
There are plenty of important figures with genuine connections to New Rochelle to choose from – they were born here, raised here or lived here during their time of prominence on the national stage.
Here is a random sample taken from an online list.
- Lee Archer
- Carrie Chapman Catt
- Ossie Davis
- Ruby Dee
- E.L. Doctorow
- Lou Gehrig
- Jerome Kohlberg Jr.
- Willie Mays
- Robert Merrill
- Thomas Paine
- Carl Reiner
- Frederic Remington
- Norman Rockwell
- Mariano Rivera
- Frances Sternhagen
- Joe Torre
- Paul Zuber
Anyone of these people would be better candidates than those honored today.
Maybe the New Rochelle Board of Education should appoint a School Renaming Committee to select Names for Schools with two criteria:
- Highly-regarded leaders in their field.
- Substantive connection to New Rochelle.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section. Latinos do not have the same history in New Rochelle so there is just one Latino on the list but if a reader wants to make the case for more do so in the comments.