St. Paul Public Schools has launched a formal process that may end in the renaming of Ramsey Middle School.
Superintendent Joe Gothard told the school board Tuesday evening that a school renaming committee, which includes students, is behind the effort to change the name and will soon begin seeking feedback from the community.
Some students at the school have been pushing for years to remove the name of Alexander Ramsey, Minnesota's first territorial governor and the state's second governor, who called for the extermination of the Dakota people in Minnesota, and led the state during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and the mass execution of Dakota men in Mankato.
Next month, Ramsey students and the school's principal will present the school board with their objections to the school's current name and ideas to change it, Gothard said. They'll follow a district policy for school renaming, which is likely to take several months and will include opportunities for input by community members.
Several board members said Tuesday that they were eager to hear from the renaming group and consider the change.
Board member Chauntyll Allen, who has worked as a paraprofessional at Ramsey Middle School, said conversations about Alexander Ramsey's actions and legacy — and whether his name should be on the building — have been going on at the school for so long that many of the students who advocated for a change are now in high school.
"It's been a long time coming," she said.
The push to rename Ramsey follows similar moves in other Minnesota communities and school districts to strip the names of historical figures from landmarks and schools because of their racist views or actions or otherwise problematic pasts. Among them: the West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan school board, which voted in late 2020 to rename Henry Sibley High School because of that former governor's role in the U.S.-Dakota war and the Mankato mass execution.
In 2017, Minneapolis Public Schools renamed its own Ramsey Middle School for Alan Page, Minnesota's first Black Supreme Court justice. Students and community members in Minneapolis have also advocated for remaining Patrick Henry High School, though that school's name has not been changed.
St. Paul Public Schools has wrestled with school-renaming debates in the recent past. In 2019, the school board voted to rename Linwood Monroe Arts Plus, a dual-campus school that was once home to the former Monroe High, named for President James Monroe.
That renaming effort was led by the school's parent-teacher organization and focused on the disconnect between a school that embraces diversity and its slaveholder namesake. The school is now known as Global Arts Plus.
Discussions about renaming Ramsey have predated those decisions.
In 2016, Ramsey was a discussion topic when the district's Student Engagement and Advancement Board recommended that the St. Paul school board create a new policy "that prohibits, and reverses, naming SPPS facilities after people who have violated human rights through: enslavement, internment or genocide."
Erin Golden • 612-673-4790