District leaders are considering one parent’s proposal to rename South Middle School in efforts to better reflect Lawrence’s Native American heritage.
Julie Boyle, the district’s director of communications, said in an email that the schools’ Equity Advisory Council discussed the recommendation — there are several names in the running — earlier this week at the group’s first meeting of the school year.
Carole Cadue-Blackwood, who identifies herself in her letter as the “concerned parent” of a current South student, wrote to the district’s interim superintendent, Anna Stubblefield, earlier this summer with the request. That letter was shared earlier this week with the District Advisory Council, Stubblefield said, and as of Friday afternoon had just made its way to school board members.
South, the most racially diverse of the district’s four middle schools, has historically boasted one of highest populations of Native American students in the Lawrence district, Cadue-Blackwood wrote.
“A name change will enhance Lawrence’s public perception that it is diverse, progressive and an ideal city to raise a family and retire,” wrote Cadue-Blackwood, who identifies herself as a member of the Kickapoo tribe.
In her letter, Cadue-Blackwood suggested that South be named in honor of the school’s connection to nearby Haskell Indian Nations University. South, along with neighboring Broken Arrow Elementary and Broken Arrow Park, was built on land given to the city, county and school district by the Bureau of Indian Affairs through Haskell, then known as the Haskell Institute.
“A name change will greatly improve race relations and improve Lawrence’s image,” Cadue-Blackwood wrote. “It is with careful consideration that the name change reflects a notable person associated with Haskell in order to avoid any mascot issues.”
In her letter, Cadue-Blackwood said the name change would allow South to keep its cougar mascot.
The letter also includes the names of about 50 community members “who have given their express permission” to be listed as supporters of the renaming, which so far has generated several suggestions.
Those mentioned in Cadue-Blackwood’s letter include Haskell alumni such as Olympic gold medalists Jim Thorpe and Billy Mills, standout Haskell football player and coach John Levi, and Clarence Tinker, an Osage Indian who was the first American general killed in World War II. The late Henry Roe Cloud, a Haskell superintendent and official in the U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, was also among the suggestions.
Cadue-Blackwood and her group are open to other ideas as well, she said in her letter.
For now, interim superintendent Stubblefield said, the South name change is just that — an idea. However, she said district leaders will follow policies already in place that require the school board to consider and approve any name-change requests.
“The next thing that’ll happen is there will probably be a meeting at South Middle School just to discuss what the proposed names are, just to get feedback from a broader perspective,” Stubblefield told the Journal-World.
There are a couple steps between that meeting and bringing the request to school board members for discussion and approval, she added, but the first step is contacting South administration about the proposed change.
Though not all Equity Advisory Council members were present at last week’s meeting, Stubblefield said, those who were there voiced support of “moving forward” with the request within school board guidelines.
In her letter, Cadue-Blackwood pledged that fundraising efforts would be undertaken to "alleviate costs incurred" by the name change, if approved.
Lawrence has four middle schools, each with a direction in its name: South Middle School, Liberty Memorial Central Middle School, West Middle School and Southwest Middle School.