‘Ellen Garrison Middle School’ would be a fitting tribute

March 11, 2024

Wow! I learned so much last week at the Select Board hearing about the idea of naming our middle school: 

  • 27% of students in our Concord Public School system today self-identify as people of color. 
  • 0% of our public buildings are named after people of color.  
  • Over 1,000 people have “voted” in favor of the name “Ellen Garrison Middle School” by signing a petition.  
  • The signatures on that petition are fast-approaching 10% of Concord’s registered voters. Yet only two people (of six) on the School Committee voted against the idea.  
  • We have a golden opportunity here for a positive impact on our students/neighbors through a relatively small gesture. If Ellen Garrison inspires even one student over the next 50 years, we will have done the right thing.  

One important point: We must separate the impact of all these arguments from the intentions of the arguers.  

It is safe to assume that EVERYONE involved in this debate has only the best intentions for our students. And still, it is impossible to separate Ellen’s race from this debate. I hope we can maintain gratitude toward ALL involved, and avoid the simplistic assumption that anyone who wants something different from me must have bad intentions.  

Alexa Anderson said during public comment that no matter the decision, “some people were going to be disappointed.” That describes a “zero-sum game” where there are winners and losers. If that is the case, then I hope that we can give this win to those proposing the name of a non-white Concordian for our newest public building. 

The name “Ellen Garrison Middle School” would be a first in many ways. But isn’t that even more poetically fitting? After all, Garrison was a courageous FIRST throughout her life … a fantastic model for all of us to learn from. 

Jim Tull 

Farmer’s Cliff Road