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Weigh in on naming the new middle school  

By Kelly Walters  Correspondent
January 19, 2024

Concord’s School Committee wants to hear from residents as they determine what to call the new middle school now under construction on Old Marlboro Road.  

Name submissions will be accepted through January 23 at 12 p.m.

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The committee will publish a list of potential names and gather more public input before a vote, School Committee Chair Alexa Anderson said at the group’s January 9 meeting.  

The move comes after the committee received numerous appeals to name the school for activist and educator Ellen Garrison, a native Concordian who taught formerly enslaved people to read and write, and tested the country’s first Civil Rights Act in court during the 19th century. 

“If the town takes this step, it would be the first time [in] nearly 400 years of its history that any public building was named after a person of color,” Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Commission Chair Joe Palumbo said in an email. 

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But Superintendent Laurie Hunter said she could not personally endorse a new name for the school, which is scheduled to open in February 2025. She recommends calling it simply “Concord Middle School” instead.  

Hunter explained she and other administrators have worked to encourage students to begin identifying themselves as students of “Concord Middle School” in recent years — rather than “Peabody” or “Sanborn” — in preparation for the new building. 

“The readiness is there for a united Concord Middle School; that’s the vision we should be holding to. The name matters for accomplishing that vision,” she said. 

The School Committee has already gotten a barrage of emails on the topic, Anderson said — but some stakeholders seem to disagree over who holds the authority to name the new building. 

A Town Meeting warrant article submitted by the DEI Commission asks the town to urge the Select Board and School Committee to name the building for Garrison.  

The article cites town policy APP #43, which seems to grant the Select Board the authority to name new town buildings, but Anderson said the responsibility lies with the School Committee, per the committee’s attorney. The committee voted on December 19 to update their naming policy in alignment with a Massachusetts Association of School Committees guideline

Select Board Chair Henry Dane said while the board has not taken a formal position, he believes the School Committee reserves the right to name the new building, per their attorney’s report. 

“I’m not sure that all members of the Select Board agree with the position of the School Committee that they have the authority to do that,” Dane added. However, he said, “it will be interesting to see what kind of suggestions come out of the woodwork.” 

The School Committee plans to hold a 40-minute public comment period during their February 6 meeting so residents can continue to voice their opinions, Anderson said.  

The commitee may vote to approve a final name for the new school later that evening. 

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