Could Ben Carson’s name be on the way out for a Detroit high school? And will Aretha Franklin’s name make it onto a school?
The Detroit Board of Education Tuesday night approved a process for seeking new names for several existing schools — including the Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine — and several new schools expected to open in 2019.
The science and medicine-themed school was named after the Detroit native before he became a member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet. It was a decision made when the district was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager.
Some board members, including LaMar Lemmons, have pushed for removing Carson’s name from the school.
The board earlier this year approved a policy regarding the naming of schools — changes that paved the way for a change in the name of the Carson school. The Carson school is now operating in a building that previously held Crockett Career and Technical Center.
Here are other existing schools that could be in for a name change: Harms Elementary School, Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men and Detroit School of the Arts. Meanwhile, several new schools — including a Latin school and a school that will be located on the campus of Marygrove College — need names.
In addition to the call for Carson’s name to be removed from a school, some have also called on the district to name a school after the late Aretha Franklin. Potentially, that could happen at Detroit School of the Arts.
The policy allows the board to change names of existing schools under the following circumstances:
* To commemorate individuals who have made a significant contribution to the enhancement of education
* If a school facility is newly built or redesigned
* If the name of a school doesn’t reflect the current school population
* If the community of the geographic area where the school is located requests a name change that more closely aligns with the history of the locality
* If information newly discovered about the current name of the school is negative in nature.
Tuesday’s action doesn’t mean the name of that school — or the others on the list — will change. But it does mean the process of changing a name, which includes seeking input from stakeholders via meetings and surveys, will begin.
Board member Sonya Mays raised questions about the plan to move ahead.
“I think there are probably other places where staff could be spending their time,” Mays said.
Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said some of the work to seek input from various stakeholders would happen at the school level.
“I don’t think it’s overwhelming to where we’ll lose focus of our core mission and work.”
Also at Tuesday’s meeting:
Vitti said the district may have found another donor to help fill a void left when one of the original donations to help fund the installation of water hydration stations fell through. District officials had announced last month that more than $3 million in donations had come in to fully fund the effort — which is the district’s way of addressing elevated levels of lead and copper in schools.
The water hydration stations are considered safer drinking water options because they filter water of contaminants like lead and copper.
At the time of the funding announcement, the United Way of Southeastern Michigan had pledged both $500,000 and an additional $500,000 that would be contingent upon a successful effort to raise the same amount through a fundraising effort. Vitti said during the meeting that the United Way would no longer be providing the matching amount, but he provided no details to explain why.
The deadline for raising that money was Oct. 31. It was unclear Tuesday evening how much had been raised and if the goal had been met.
But Vitti said the district had heard from another funder that would likely cover the $500,000.
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