After months of deliberation, the Palo Alto School Board has come up with new names for David Starr Jordan Middle School and Terman Middle School; the two schools will change to Frank Greene Middle School and Ellen Fletcher Middle School, respectively.
Frank S. Greene, after whom Jordan Middle School will be renamed, was a well-known African-American technologist in Silicon Valley. He was a Sunnyvale resident who worked at a number of famous startups, including Hewlett-Packard and Intel.
Ellen Fletcher, after whom Terman Middle School will be renamed, was a prominent community activist who advocated for cycling and environmental health.
The name change were prompted by a Jordan Middle School student’s discovery that both Jordan and Terman were leaders of the eugenics movement, which promotes white supremacy. This caused an uproar among community members about changing the names. Some argued that naming a school with many minority students after a white supremacist created an unwelcoming environment, while others pointed out the costliness of rebranding two schools in a district that recently lost $6 million.
Some of the names that were not chosen include Fred Yamamoto, William Hewlett, Anna Zschokke, and Edith Johnson. At the Board meeting on March 27, the advisory discussed alternative names for the schools.
“It’s not a question of whether or not people are inspiring. I think that it is a question of whether or not we teach about these people and whether we take the opportunity to hold up to lift up other people.”
Vice President of the Board of Education Jennifer DiBrienza
Yamamoto is a notable Paly alumnus who was sent to a Japanese internment camp during his high school years, and went on to serve in the military and win the Purple Heart award.
Despite Yamamoto’s great feats, a small sector of the Palo Alto community were extremely opposed to the idea of naming one of the schools after Yamamoto.
Their reasoning was that others outside of the community would associate the name Yamamoto with Isoroku Yamamoto, a war criminal who played a significant role in planning the Pearl Harbor bombing. Many, especially members of the Chinese-American community, were extremely opposed to naming the school after Yamamoto.
Despite the community’s opposition to renaming the schools after Yamamoto, at the Board meeting, some of the board members defended the choices.
“I think Fletcher who suffered in the Holocaust and Fred Yamamoto who suffered as a result of his ethnic heritage, are the names that I would see as the top choices. And I think they are particularly appropriate given that the project of rejecting eugenicists and thinking about what we are about here [at PAUSD].”
Board President Ken Dauber