Berkeley school district considers new names for LeConte Elementary School

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Ashish Samaddar/Staff

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After widespread criticism for having a school named for a slave owner, Berkeley Unified School District will vote on a list of seven new names for LeConte Elementary School on May 30.

The community generated the list, which includes Ruth Acty, the first Black teacher hired by BUSD, and Dolores Huerta, a civil rights activist and co-founder of United Farm Workers. Other potential names for the school include denise brown, Ohlone, Sylvia Mendez, Mamie Tape and Arco Iris, according to Berkeleyside.

In May 2017, almost 130 families and several dozen teachers petitioned BUSD to change the name of LeConte Elementary. The school was initially named after one of the first UC Berkeley professors in the 1800s, Joseph LeConte — who owned more than 200 slaves with his brother John LeConte, the first UC president.

In fall 2017, a series of meetings took place to gather input from parents and staff on whether to change the name “LeConte.” This resulted in the school board voting Nov. 15 to change the school name, as recommended by BUSD Superintendent Donald Evans.

According to the BUSD website, after the meeting, an advisory committee of parents, staff and community members compiled 220 potential new names for the school. In March, the list was reduced to seven names.

Community discussions over the new name will continue until the end of April, at which point the advisory committee will make a recommendation to Evans, the BUSD website states. Evans will then bring the recommendation to the BUSD school board meeting May 30.

“There’s no definitive answer at this stage to the most likely name since the name review process is still underway,” BUSD spokesperson Charles Burress said in an email. “The process calls for additional community input, which will be considered as the list of proposed names is narrowed down further.”

Contact Yao Huang at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Yhoneplus.