The St. Paul school board is being asked to rename a school that has distant ties to a U.S. president who owned slaves.
Linwood Monroe Arts Plus would become Global Arts Plus under a proposal being presented to board members Tuesday.
Last year, the school’s PTA voted to pursue the change after a parent informed the group that President James Monroe — whose last name remains above the entrance of the school’s upper campus — had been a slave owner.
“The name of a diverse and inclusive school should not honor someone who owned human beings and worked to maintain the security of the system of slavery,” PTA co-chairman Jason Johnson wrote in an e-mail Friday.
The building once was home to Monroe High, which graduated its last class in 1977. A group of alumni is fighting to keep the Monroe name, saying it is important to the “long and rich tradition” of the West 7th Street community.
That group wants the school board to put off the vote so that alumni and the broader community can have a greater say in the matter. The current effort “flies in the face” of board policy requiring stakeholder engagement in name-changing decisions, the alumni say.
Johnson disagrees. He said that the district councils in neighborhoods surrounding the school’s two campuses were notified of the desire for change, and that one of them — the Fort Road/West Seventh Federation — sponsored a community meeting and mediation session on the issue last summer.
In addition, he said, “Linwood West 7th Arts Plus” was one of three names submitted to students, parents, families and school staff members for a vote last month. That name was intended to be a compromise with alumni who opposed the change, he added.
“To reopen [the process] simply because an outside group was heard, but didn’t get the outcome they hoped for, is a disservice to the students, parents and staff that have chosen a name that honors the values and aspirations of the school as it is today, with its eye on tomorrow,” Johnson said.
The name Global Arts Plus enjoyed “especially strong support among students,” according to a name-change committee report on Tuesday’s board agenda.
Linwood Monroe is a magnet school that uses music, drama, dance and visual arts to educate kids. Nearly 30% of its students are English language learners.
It is not unusual, Johnson said, to hear five or more languages being spoken in any given classroom.
Putting the name of a U.S. president to the test is new to Twin Cities area name-change conversations.
Gov. Alexander Ramsey’s name was removed from a south Minneapolis middle school on the basis of his call for the extermination of the Sioux Indian tribe.
A move also was afoot a year ago to rename Patrick Henry High in Minneapolis because the Revolutionary War-era hero was a slave owner.
But it hit a snag. Among the contentions: A name change could cost $50,000.
St. Paul’s name-change committee puts the cost of a Linwood Monroe switch at $12,888.