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Portland Public Schools Board to vote on recommendation for new namesake Jan. 26

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - A new name for Woodrow Wilson High School is expected to be approved by the Portland Public Schools Board in late January. The Portland Public Schools Board of Education is expected to approve the renaming of Woodrow Wilson High School to Ida B. Wells-Barnett High School.

A renaming committee was scheduled to present the suggestion for the new namesake to the school board on Tuesday, Jan. 26. Ida B. Wells-Barnett was among five names under consideration by the committee after public feedback was solicited via online surveys.

In December, the committee narrowed down a list of five names for final consideration, all of them Black women who had historic significance or notable contributions to American society.

Wells-Barnett was a journalist and activist who was born into slavery in Mississippi in 1862.

"As an investigative journalist, she used the power of truth to shed light on the unjust and violent conditions under which African Americans lived throughout the South," the committee letter states. "Remembered as one of the most lauded civil rights advocates of the 19th and 20th centuries, Wells-Barnett is an American hero. Ida B. Wells-Barnett will foster a lasting message of determination, valor and tolerance among all students and staff."

"We are looking forward to sharing information on how our renaming process aligned with district guidelines, how we solicited and processed community input and why we ultimately decided that Ida B. Wells-Barnett is the most appropriate person to name our school after," a Jan. 15 letter from the renaming committee states.

According to the committee, nearly 2,000 public comments were received during the renaming considerations for the Southwest Portland school.

Last June, after students addressed the school board to urge a rebranding of the school, Portland Public Schools began earnest efforts to initiate the change. The district acknowledged the process and affirmed its commitment to racial equity and social justice.

Last June, PPS released a statement saying school leaders were "ready to listen to our communities and, in particular, our students to help guide us forward."

In addition to the Southwest Portland high school, the district is also considering renaming Madison High School along with a host of other sites named after what administrators call "problematic" historical figures.


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