Names of Baton Rouge public schools, and why details matter

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board’s Committe of the Whole decided at their last meeting to advance the following item to this Thursday’s full board meeting (5 pm 10/17/13):

“Consideration of a request for approval to submit the following school name changes to the Louisiana Department of Education, in compliance with Board policy for naming schools: (Herman Brister)

a. North Banks Middle School (formerly Banks Elementary)

b. East Baton Rouge Readiness Superintendent’s Academy (formerly Valley Park)

c. Christa McAuliffe Superintendent’s Academy (formerly Christa McAuliffe Center)

d. Staring Superintendent’s Academy (formerly Staring Education Center)

e. Eden Park Superintendent’s Academy (formerly Mohican Center)

f. Beechwood Superintendent’s Academy (formerly Scotlandville Middle Magnet)

g. Northdale Superintendent’s Academy (formerly Northdale Magnet Academy)”

This got me inspired to think that this would be a good time to fix school names throughout the system, so they would be more consistently meaningful.  But first I have some thoughts regarding the names on this week’s agenda.

North Banks Middle School:  The “North” got thrown in by board member Vereta Lee in the midst of a flurry of let’s-pick-a-quick-temporary-name-and-fix-it-later game at an earlier board meeting.  Drop that word, which doesn’t fit the actual name of the neighborhood surrounding the 72nd Street location, and you get Banks Middle School, which is a better name.

The other six schools have “Superintendent’s Academy” in the name, so I will comment on that portion of the name once.  When the Superintendent proposed opening one or more Superintendent’s Academy(ies) it sounded good.  Then we went through months of obfuscation and confusion before arriving at a list of six schools with at least five different formats.  The delay and bad communication tainted the term “Superintendent’s Academy” (in my opinion and perhaps that of a majority of board members).  Furthermore, I’ve seen it in official school system documents both with an apostrophe-s combination at the end, and without.  Finally, the term occupies 24 characters in a name without providing much information.

Although all six could reasonably be called alternative schools, the word “alternative” may be off-putting to potential students and other stakeholders.  Perhaps “transitional” is better; that’s what I have used in the proposals below, though I’d be interested in hearing other, potentially better, words.  I’ve heard “innovation”, “select”, “choice”, and “non-graded” offered.  So far I like “transitional” better than the others.  “Transitional” at least captures the idea that the suspended and expelled kids should transition back to their home schools once they have served the consequences of bad behavior, and that over-age kids should transition back to a point where they are on pace to graduate.

East Baton Rouge Readiness Superintendent’s Academy:  The term “Baton Rouge” should be reserved for Baton Rouge Magnet High School, in my opinion.  Putting Baton Rouge or East Baton Rouge on another high school is silly.  And the word “Readiness” doesn’t really convey any useful meaning.  Finally, the current location is in a rented strip mall so naming it after a neighborhood from which it may soon move would seem like a bad idea.  So I propose Superintendent’s Transitional High School as the name of this school.

Christa McAuliffe Superintendent’s Academy:  I propose McAuliffe Transitional Middle School, dropping the first name of the late astronaut to be more consistent with other school names and to eliminate any confusion as to alphabetization.

Staring Superintendent’s Academy: It may have made sense to keep the name “Staring” when the alternative middle school moved from the strip mall mentioned earlier to the former Greenville Elementary.  But when the strip mall again became a school site, it eliminated any justification to use the word “Staring” at a location not on Staring Lane.  I propose Greenville Transitional Middle School.  The lone student in attendance at Friday’s redo of the community forum to consider names was adamant that he didn’t like “Alternative” in the name of his school.

Eden Park Superintendent’s Academy:  The name Eden Park is perfect, but I think Eden Park Transitional Elementary School conveys more useful information than Eden Park Superintendent’s Academy.

Beechwood Superintendent’s Academy:  As with Eden Park, the name Beechwood is perfect here.  But I would propose Beechwood Transitional Middle School.

Northdale Superintendent’s Academy:  As long as we’re messing with names, let’s acknowledge that the school hasn’t been in Northdale for many years (probably at least 15).  Northdale Elementary is the site used by the Community School for Apprenticeship Learning charter.  Northdale is the neigborhood immediately north of Memorial Stadium, west of Scenic Highway and South of Choctaw Drive.  Red Oak is the neighborhood where the Northdale program moved many years ago (when the arts immersion program moved from Red Oak Elementary to Walnut Hills Elementary).  So a sensible name would be Red Oak Transitional High School. 

But why stop there?  I’d like to see other strange names fixed, and will make suggestions in a future post.  In the meantime, I would invite comments about the suggestions above.  And, if you feel strongly enough about what these seven schools should be named, contact one or more school board members and/or come to the meeting prepared to comment aloud for up to three minutes.  The board would be thrilled to hear someone else talk; they already should expect a three-minute contribution from me.

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