Corvallis School Board Considers Proposal To Rename Three Elementary Schools

Jul 30, 2020

The Corvallis School Board is considering a proposal to change the name of three schools that are named for presidents with racist views.

The elementary schools currently bear the names of Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, and Herbert Hoover. Jefferson was a slave-owner and Wilson and Hoover believed that Black people are inferior.

The Corvallis School Board met virtually Thursday evening. Among the items on their agenda was a proposal to remove the names of three racist presidents from local elementary schools.

Corvallis School Board member Sarah Finger McDonald was one of several board members to speak in favor of the resolution at an online meeting Thursday evening. “Children should not be asked to go to a school who is named after someone who thought they were ‘less than,’ she said.

Most board members supported the proposal, but Jay Conroy said the process was moving too quickly. "My problem with the resolution is that it's saying there's an emergency," he said, noting the schools have borne those names for several generations.

And he said if the community chooses to name the schools after other people, that could open up a new can of worms. "There's no one who doesn't have warts," he said. "I'm sorry, but that's fundamental."

But others on the board pointed out that of the nine public schools in Corvallis that are named for people, none bear the name of a woman or of a person of color.

Board member Luhui Whitebear suggested consulting with local tribes for possible new names for the schools. "We're on their land," she said. "This has always been Kalapuya land, and involving the tribes in honoring that relationship with their land, if they would like a school named after something important to them, honors that history and that continued relationship they have with Corvallis."

The board could vote on the proposal in early August. If approved, the names would be immediately removed and the district would take suggestions for new names from the public.