Archive for Monday, January 24, 2011

Lawrence school principals ponder pursuit of school naming

In phasing out ‘junior high,’ schools may opt to change names altogether

January 24, 2011


If the early returns at South Junior High School are any indication, the Lawrence school district’s pursuit of new names for its four soon-to-be middle schools could be rather brief.

“We had a vote as to who would like to have the name changed, or stay Lawrence South Middle School,” said Will Fernandez, in his sixth year as principal at South, 2734 La. “The teachers all say they want to stay the same: Lawrence South Middle School. … And we’ve had several teachers just do an informal poll in their classrooms, and they’ve all come back the same: They all want to stay with South. …

“There’s a sense of pride and tradition: Don’t change it.”

Such preliminary voting will be expected to move into formal election cycles beginning today, when members of the Lawrence school board consider appointing members to naming committees for each junior high school: Central, South, Southwest and West.

On Jan. 13, four board members — Mary Loveland, Marlene Merrill, Rich Minder and Vanessa Sanburn — voted to pursue new names for the schools, which are set to become middle schools July 1. The schools will have grades 6 through 8, instead of the current 7 through 9.

To help guide their decisions about the schools’ names entering the new academic year, the four board members agreed to seek input from the school communities themselves. Those communities, represented by the committees, will be expected either to suggest new names or support maintaining the existing ones — with the only certainty that “junior high” be replaced by “middle” in each school’s name.

While Fernandez puts the chances of recommending a replacement name for South at “slim, very slim,” other principals are holding back their thoughts until the committees get a chance to meet.

One thing everyone can agree on: Committee members first must decide whether they want to retain the existing name or pursue a new one.

“That’s first,” said Trish Bransky, principal at Southwest, 2511 Inverness Drive, since the building opened in 1995-96. “At that point they’ll decide to move forward or not.”

The proposed committee for West, 2700 Harvard Road, would have six people: two parents, two teachers and two students. But Myron Melton, in his eighth year as principal, would expect them to gather plenty of input from their friends, colleagues and fellow students.

West opened 50 years ago, and boasts a matter-of-fact motto that’s been celebrated for decades: West is Best.

“There’s a lot of tradition that goes into a name,” Melton said. “But I think you’ll have people say, ‘We’re going into a whole new era, we need a whole new name.’ It’s hard to predict. I don’t know which way it will go.”

Anna Stubblefield, in her third year at Central, already knows at least one name that will be considered by Central’s naming committee: Liberty Memorial Middle School, which would go back to the heart of the name that’s actually inscribed on the front of the school building at 1400 Mass., the former Liberty Memorial High School.

Stubblefield, who acknowledges that she’s “not interested in changing just for change’s sake,” plans to be open to the anticipated dialogue at the committee level.

“We’ll see where everybody’s opinions lie,” she said. “Is this something we want to spend time on? If so, it’s obviously something that will be very time-consuming.”

Fernandez isn’t worried. If board members appoint the committees as expected tonight, he plans to distribute surveys to all 585 students Tuesday afternoon.

Each single sheet of paper will have but one question: Do you want the school to remain Lawrence South Middle School, or would you like a name change?

“Two boxes,” he said. “Pick one.”

Each committee would be expected to forward its recommendations to the school board sometime around spring break.


Raiden 7 years, 4 months ago

I'm guessing that Mary Loveland wants the name changes to be her legacy as she leaves the board and it's time for her to leave as she must not be thinking clearly. Changing the names is unnecessary. If you start with changing the name then it may lead to questions about changing mascots and school's also a completely ridiculous waste of money to then spend almost $2 mil for new signs, letterhead uniforms, etc.... would go a long way for teacher salaries and other staff who are working so very hard this year as a result of last year's cuts.....larger classes, less para support and less resources.

Mary, it doesn't matter now if the school's name doesn't match its original directionality in the city...the names are traditions now so leave it alone. Don't you have bigger fist to fry with more cuts to juggle and try to figure out how to do the least harm for the school community?

Melanie Birge 7 years, 4 months ago

Well I still think we should have a Self Middle and a Self High.....Why not?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

I still do not understand the need for name change.

How about if the board agrees never to spend $23,000 an acre again for unimproved land for a total of $1.76 million.

How about if the board agrees that any new land for USD buildings must be provided by those creating the need..... aka developers and the real estate industry?

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 4 months ago

Me neither. Looks like the kids at South have more sense than the combined school board.We just don't have the money.

Michael Stanclift 7 years, 4 months ago

Why is there even a need to change it from Junior High to Middle School? I understand they're shuffling around the grades, but how does that prompt a change at all? Are they legally obligated to call it something different based on the students who attend?

Kash_Encarri 7 years, 4 months ago

NO, they are not obligated (legally or otherwise) to make the name change. I've been told that there are at least 20 districts in the state that have some combination of 6-8 grades using the term Junior High instead of Middle School in their names. Baldwin Jr. High is the closest school with a 6-8 format. The Olathe school district would be the one most similar to Lawrence that has Junior Highs with a 6-8 format.

The whole thing stinks of a school board that wants to have some kind of personal STAMP on their actions that goes beyond the shuffling of the grade levels.

LisaGreenwood 7 years, 4 months ago

Because a "middle school" and a "junior high school" do not function on the same educational philosophy model. Middle schools are organized and structured to meet the specific cognitive and psychological needs of the young adolescent; while junior highs are run like a high school but with smaller kids.
For more information:

Kash_Encarri 7 years, 4 months ago

That's a nice link you've included there Miss Greenwood, but I know for a fact that your school, West, have done essentially the same things outlined in the NMSA's information that you've linked. Yes, it has had some ebb and flow from year to year, but nothing they've put forth in this link is new to West or any other junior high in Lawrence.

As a member of West's committee, I hope that you take school tradition as well as costs (and taxpayers) into consideration when your group presents a recommendation. If you have to change from jh to ms, so be it. But changing from West to Myron Melton Middle School (or whatever option you might really consider) would be spending more money that could be used to really help the students.

Eddie Muñoz 7 years, 4 months ago

I agree with the commenters and folks at South that there doesn't need to be a name change at all. It just seems completely unnecessary.

Take_a_letter_Maria 7 years, 4 months ago

How about it Rich? We know you read the forums.

What's the REAL reason for pushing these changes? It isn't legal? At best it's symantics, but even Olathe who is a year or so ahead of us in this transition didn't feel it was worth the money that they DON'T have to spend on changing the school names.

sundowner 7 years, 4 months ago

This is a foolish waste of money. WE HAVE NO MONEY. Get it?

Kash_Encarri 7 years, 4 months ago

Hey hoagie!! Why don't you do some work and ask these questions at the board meeting? You could even do a little research and come up with an exact number of schools and districts that fall into the 5-6-7-8. 6-7-8 or 7-8 grade level structure that are called Jr. High instead of Middle School.

irvan moore 7 years, 4 months ago

is it relevant what the principals, teachers and students think, ask the taxpayers, teachers and students are temporary, taxpayers are forever.

guesswho 7 years, 4 months ago

Funny that West really isn't that far west. It looks like it is the farthest north. Maybe North middle school?

ranger73 7 years, 4 months ago

North/Northwest But Kinda Central Now Especially Since Central Is Now Liberty Memorial But We Are Still Gonna Call It West Junior High Whatever Tomato Tomahto But We Have To Change The Name Or Call It Dale Shackleford Middle School.
That's my vote for the new "West" name!

guesswho 7 years, 4 months ago


ranger73 7 years, 4 months ago

Oh sorry that should Be Rusty Shackleford...

pace 7 years, 4 months ago

I know that middle schools function different than a JR. High, but in my reality, I just think of middle schools as Jr. Highs that have adjusted their program to a different focus and demographic. So why change jr. high to middle school? Change the definition of JR high in this town, No need to change names at all.

Kelly Johnson 7 years, 4 months ago

If they go forward with the name changes, I do like the idea of Liberty Memorial Middle School for Central. I think picking names with historical meaning to the school's location would make the most sense.

Take_a_letter_Maria 7 years, 4 months ago

The silence from the board member and the teacher called out in this discussion is deafening.

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