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Clarendon school's name change stirs citizen push for reversal

BY SHARRON HALEY
Clarendon Sun contributor
Posted 7/8/20

SUMMERTON - A group wants to change the name of Dr. Rose H. Wilder Elementary School back to St. Paul Elementary School.

According to minutes from a Feb. 3 meeting, Clarendon School District One Board members voted unanimously, with no …

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Clarendon school's name change stirs citizen push for reversal

Posted

SUMMERTON - A group wants to change the name of Dr. Rose H. Wilder Elementary School back to St. Paul Elementary School.

According to minutes from a Feb. 3 meeting, Clarendon School District One Board members voted unanimously, with no abstentions, to rename the school, which was named in honor of a different school where the Rev. J.A. Delaine taught and appealed first for school buses from the county school board. When the first case was dismissed, a second case, Briggs v. Elliott, challenged segregation itself and eventually became part of the Brown v. Board of Education litigation.

In February, then-board chairperson Tony Junious opened the public participation portion of the meeting with a discussion regarding renaming the school in honor of Dr. Rose H. Wilder, a Black woman who served as superintendent of CSD1 from 2004 through 2017.

When Wilder took charge of the three-school district, it was close to $1 million in debt. When she left, finances had turned around, and students' scores were climbing.

Junious, who has since been appointed to the new Clarendon School District 4, made through the consolidation of CSD1 and Turbeville-based Clarendon School District 3, recognized members of an external committee that was tasked with conducting a survey into renaming the school. Mary Ann Bassard, a former CSD1 board member and a retired educator, as well as members of the Community Survey Committee shared the results of the survey into renaming the school.

According to Bassard, 1,036 ballots were cast in the survey. The survey's results revealed that while one person didn't answer, 38 votes were cast in favor of renaming the gym in honor of Wilder, and 991 votes were cast to rename the entire school.

For the 2018-19 school year, CSD1 had 710 students.

On Monday, Tiffany Monroe, who said she represents the group petitioning to reverse the renaming, addressed the board during the public participation portion of its meeting that was held via Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I respectfully ask the board to restore the name to St. Paul Elementary School," Monroe told the board.

Monroe told the board she has a petition with more than 1,100 signatures of individuals who want the name changed back to St. Paul Elementary School.

Monroe said the "people of Clarendon School District One" felt the name change process was flawed and not transparent.

Citing Briggs v. Elliott, Monroe told board members many residents of CSD1 were "shocked and dumbfounded" that the name was changed.

"This is not an attack on Dr. Wilder or her achievements," Monroe told the board. "Many names should be considered above hers."

Monroe also asked that Board Chairperson Wanda Thomas be recused from any discussion of changing the name back to St. Paul Elementary School because she is a "recent employee of Dr. Wilder."

"I am respectfully asking the name be restored within 30 days of this presentation," Monroe added.

Thomas said the district's superintendent, Barbara Champagne, will follow up with her.

Monroe has a copy of an unsigned petition titled "Petition to Restore Clarendon District One Name" on her Facebook page. The top of the petition says the change was done "unbeknownst to the citizens that reside in the Clarendon County District One area." The call to action is for the school to be restored to its original name or change to a "more historical name."

At least one respondent on Monroe's Facebook page said that she signed the petition. "I signed and live out of state. I did it through the link online."

The "Restoring Clarendon District One's History" petition on www.thepetitionsite.com has a goal of 2,000 supporters. As of July 7, the site had 649 supporters.

Many of the online supporters cite the historic value of retaining the name St. Paul Elementary School as their reason for supporting the petition.

"Rev. J A Delaine was a leader as strong and determined as Rev. Martin Luther King. He brought together a small town and fought a long, hard battle to get the Black children of Clarendon a fair chance at a better education. If we allow a name change without the consent of those who care the most, his work and that of all those who fought beside him despite the backlash they received will be for nothing," one comment reads.

Another petitioner wrote, "I am a graduate of Scott's Branch High School! I am also proud product of the Pearson Family! I am of the (understanding) if (the) people who (are) connected to the linage don't protect the history of our great community, then who would?"

Many of the online responders said they were raised in St. Paul or attended CSD1 but have moved to other states, including Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, New York, Georgia and New Jersey.