Concordians have no shortage of opinions about what to name the new middle school set to open its doors next February.
Residents composed nearly 200 emails proposing 22 unique titles for the building after the Concord School Committee invited the public to weigh in on the issue on January 9, Committee Chair Alexa Anderson said.
The committee publicly announced a lengthy list of contenders at their January 23 meeting.
“Concord’s gonna Concord,” Anderson said. “Concord is really a place where civic engagement is still strong, and I think the outreach that we’ve received in these past two weeks really demonstrates that.”
The committee plans to circulate the list and solicit additional feedback for two weeks before choosing a name on February 6. Their choice will impact students, teachers, parents and community members for decades to come.
“This is a school that’s going to be here for the next hundred years, and the name is going to be important because [you’re] teaching the students who enter the building [the] history to the name,” METCO Representative Domingo DaRosa said.
Historical interpreter and Robbins House Board Member Joe Palumbo said he’s excited the committee has included the public in the naming process.
“I hope [the school committee] will use this feedback to really think about the powerful nature of their vote,” he said. “Concord is at an inflection point in dealing with issues of race and class. How we resolve this issue will tell us a great deal about where we are as a community and the work ahead.”
Palumbo and his colleagues have advocated since 2022 for the school to be named after educator and civil rights advocate Ellen Garrison. Their efforts gained considerable momentum last year, and an online petition for the change bears more than 1,100 signatures.
Palumbo’s pitch to the school committee reads:
“As a product of Concord’s public schools, a woman, educator, administrator, and champion of civil rights, Ellen Garrison stood for Concord’s values, and contributed to our town’s rich history… Ellen attended Concord Public Schools and as a child marched in the 1835 town parade as the only Black child “beneath the gaze of curiosity, surprise, ridicule and admiration” of the residents. After graduating from Concord Public School she spent her life as an educator teaching formerly enslaved people how to grow and prosper as free men and women… Almost a century before Rosa Parks, Ellen became one of the first African Americans in the United States to challenge the legitimacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.”
Another resident proposed naming the school for Thomas J. Hudner, a Navy veteran and longtime Concord resident who received the Medal of Honor:
“On December 4, 1950… while flying in a formation providing supporting fire to U.S. Marine Corps forces in North Korea, [Hudner] intentionally crashed-landed his aircraft in an effort to save his wingman, who had to make an emergency landing behind Chinese lines. That wingman and comrade was Ensign Jesse l. Brown, the first African American to graduate from the Navy’s flight training program. The rescue attempt was unsuccessful, and Ensign Brown perished in this action, becoming the first African American U.S. Navy officer to be killed in the Korean War. Hudner’s acts that day in 1950 were an example of selflessness, boldness, and friendship to which all our children should aspire.”
One individual also proposed “Hudner Brown Middle School” to honor both servicemen.
Another proposed “Jerry Moss Middle School,” a tribute to a beloved CCHS health and physical education teacher of color:
“I don’t know anyone who has had a greater and more positive impact on the lives of young people in Concord, across multiple generations, than Mr. Moss. He has been a coach, mentor, and teacher to so many and is quite often remembered as that favorite teacher who changed the course of a life for the better.”
And a proponent of “Musketaquid Middle School” said:
“Musketaquid is the indigenous name for Concord that was used before the renaming by European settlers. By naming the middle school as such, we can choose to honor both the legacy and present stewardship of the area by the Nipmac and Massachusett indigenous communities. The name alone would provide an extraordinary opportunity to educate not only students, but also all our citizens about the historical context of the Town.”
Some familiar names, like Emerson, Sanborn and Peabody also made the list. One resident campaigned for “Peabody Sanborn Middle School,” saying“acknowledgement of the individuals for whom the two Middle Schools were named, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody and Franklin Benjamin Sanborn, shouldn’t be set aside because the physical space is changing.”
Another suggested Peabody Middle School, calling “Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804-1894) [a] titan in Concord and American history. She exemplified and led Me Too and Black Lives Matter ideals and principles more than 125 years ago.”
Superintendent Laurie Hunter said “The Concord Middle School” best supports her administration’s vision for the new facility:
“When I arrived, the middle school was a school divided … Student identity rested solely on their attendance at Peabody or Sanborn. The buildings were often compared to one another as if they were separate entities,” Hunter said.
Through the District Strategic Plan and Concord Middle School Improvement Plans, intentional goals were set to shift the culture and foster a school identity … Nomenclature about Peabody and Sanborn has been replaced by ‘the grade six building’ and ‘the grade seven and eight building’ of Concord Middle School,” she continued.
“A Concord Middle School identity was born that filters through all that we do and is the spoke of school spirit and student engagement… My recommendation is to realize the vision by sustaining the school’s inclusive, recognized name of The Concord Middle School.”
In light of the multitude of submissions, the School Committee considered extending their two-week public comment period in order to narrow down the candidates before making their final decision. The group ultimately chose to maintain their original deadline, however.
“I think there’s been a big gray area around how we’re handling this and I would hate to muddy it further by changing it again,” Committee member Carrie Rankin said.
Member Courtland Booth added that some residents mistakenly believe they are taking part in a “referendum” by emailing the committee, and that the name with the most public support will prevail.
“Ultimately, the decision is ours,” Anderson clarified, while emphasizing that committee members are still seeking as much public feedback as possible.
The committee adopted a new naming policy in December that calls for “the wishes of the community, including parents/guardians and students” to be considered in the decision.
It also specifies that new names should “promote messages aligned with the mission, vision and goals of the school district.”
Committee members intend to publish each and every email they received from residents during the submission process on the school district website for public consideration, they said, but will redact email addresses and physical addresses from the document for privacy.
Their February 6 meeting will include a 40-minute public comment period before the final vote takes place. Residents seeking to voice their opinions can send their comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The names submitted include:
- Sarah Aldon Bradford Middle School
- Mary Merrick Brooks Middle School
- Peter Bulkley Middle School
- Concord Middle School
- Simon Davis Middle School
- The Emerson School (after Peter Emerson or Ralph Waldo Emerson)
- Margaret Fuller Middle School
- Ellen Garrison Middle School
- Garrison Peabody Sanborn Middle School
- Kearns Goodwin Middle School (Doris)
- Hawthorne Middle School (Nathaniel)
- Hudner Brown Middle School (after Thomas Hudner and Ensign Brown)
- Thomas J Hudner Middle School or Thomas J. Hudner Academy
- Mary Mann Middle School
- Jerry Moss Middle School or Moss Middle School
- The Musketaquid School
- Peabody Middle School
- Peabody Sanborn Middle School
- Dr. Isaiah L. Pickard Middle School
- Mary Rice Middle School
- Sanborn Middle School
- Dr. Charles Willie Middle School