After almost six months with no activity, a small group of people is again trying to force a name change for Monroe School. Your steering committee will be sending the following letter to the school district superintendent, school board members, and community newspapers. At this point, we will need to see what will happens. We may have to explore other options and call upon the Alumni for support. Stay tuned.
As the Monroe Alumni, we were disappointed to learn that once again we need to address the Monroe Name change issue. A few individuals from the Monroe-Linwood Arts Plus PTA with the support of the principal Dr. Bass are again trying to fast track a Monroe name change with the St. Paul School Board. When this issue first surfaced a year ago, the Monroe Alumni, friends, and many local business owners signed a petition to keep the Monroe name as part of the West 7th Street community. Over 700 people signed the petition.
In our efforts to deal with this issue, the Alumni took the high road. We have tried to show through presentations at school board meetings, newspaper articles, and emails to school board members, that the Monroe name is an important part of the West 7th Street tradition. The West 7th Street community has a long and rich tradition in St. Paul.
During the past year, we have reached out to the Monroe administration and the PTA with our willingness to find compromise solutions to the name change controversy. We have expressed a willingness to help the Monroe school with volunteers and financial support. This last holiday season the West 7th Street Club made up primarily of Monroe alumni continued its 26 years of tradition of providing holiday meals to people in the West 7th Street community. As part of this effort, the Club donated 12 new bikes to Monroe School. The school did not even acknowledge these efforts with a thank you.
Over the year, on numerous occasions, we have asked to be part of the group process working on the name change. Instead, the small group seeking a name change said they no longer need any community or Alumni involvement in the process. Instead, they have labeled the Alumni a “Group of White Racist.”
This small group’s immediate effort flies in the face of the School Board’s Policy “to engage stakeholders, the community surrounding the school and Targeted groups (i.e. alumni associations, funding partners, etc. involved in the process.” (School Board Policy 801.01.01.) The same policy goes on to say that, a cost estimate must accompany any name change and that typical signage costs range from $10,000 to $20,000. The Monroe Alumni believes these dollars could be better spent on educational efforts to improve test scores for the students of Monroe school.
We are reminded in this process of similar situations. A recent report this spring was prepared for the University of MN Regents regarding changing names of several University buildings. This effort has received a push back from some Regents because just presenting the negative facts of historical persons presents an unfair picture. This is similar to the one-sided picture of President James Monroe.
Last year, the Minneapolis school board faced a similar issue about changing the name of Patrick Henry High School. When the analysis showed it would cost over $50,000 to rename the school and they would lose the financial support of the Patrick Henry Alumni, they put any decision on hold.
With the coming of an additional charter school, Northern Lights, only blocks from Monroe, this is not the time to dismiss community input or the Monroe Alumni who have repeatedly shown their support for the Monroe school over the years.
The signers of the petition against the name change remain committed to keeping the Monroe name as part of the long history of West 7th Street. We continue to be open to compromises but find it difficult to explore these options with the generalization that we as Alumni are white racists.
We ask the School Board to follow their own policies and involve the community and Monroe Alumni in any name change process.