News


Jordan, Terman middle schools to be renamed

Palo Alto school district trustees unanimously support finding new names

By the start of the 2018-19 school year, Palo Alto's David Starr Jordan and Terman middle schools will be no more. The school board voted unanimously on Friday to rename both schools given their namesakes' promotion of eugenics, a 20th century movement that believed in the superiority of particular races over others.

The vote was the culmination of a grassroots effort that began more than a year ago with a Jordan seventh-grader's book project and grew into a formal district committee charged with researching school names. That committee majority's recommendation to rename the two schools drew dozens of people to speak passionately at board meetings in recent weeks and send hundreds of emails to board members and district leadership, both in support of and against renaming.

Friday's vote was not a surprise, given four of the five board members indicated their support for renaming before today. Todd Collins, who previously said he supported finding a new name for Jordan but hesitated on Terman, said Friday that he recognizes how much names matter -- particularly to the students, parents and community members who have testified about their experiences with racial exclusion or discrimination at school and the importance of protecting students against such harm.

Other trustees characterized renaming as a necessary decision, even if symbolic, particularly in today's political climate.

"Given where we are as a community and as a nation right now, symbolism really does matter," said Melissa Baten Caswell. "We're not going to make changes worldwide from our seats here on the dais, but we can make local changes and we can own those local changes."

Lars Johnsson, who started a petition to rename Jordan after his son wrote a revealing book report on his school's namesake, wrote in an email to the Weekly that the board's unanimous vote "sends an unambiguous message for equity and inclusivity."

The board directed staff to return later this spring with a recommendation for next steps, which could include convening another advisory committee or committees to recommend new names, which will be subject to the board's approval. Baten Caswell said the two school communities should be given "agency" in that process.

The district plans to rename the two schools by the start of the school year in August 2018.

The board also backed a recommendation to provide funding to add history on California and Palo Alto's roles in the eugenics movement to the secondary schools' curriculum.

Superintendent Max McGee said that the one-time costs of renaming -- about $50,000, the committee estimated -- could be funded through a school bond voters approved in 2008. (The bond covers facilities updates like new signage and painting.)

He said that renaming is not a "zero sum game" and that any cost associated with it will not mean taking funds from other programs or services.

Board members supported using the bond funds rather than district reserves, as had been previously suggested. They voted to use the bond to the extent possible to cover a cost of approximately $60,000.

Collins urged against trivializing the expense of renaming. If there will be expenses outside the bond's scope, he said, he hopes the community will step in to raise funds to defray those costs.

"Cost absolutely does matter, especially in our current budget deficit," Collins said.

While both Jordan and Terman were renowned academic figures -- Jordan as the founding president of Stanford University and Terman as a Stanford psychologist who created a prominent IQ test -- they were also leaders in the eugenics movement, which promoted sterilization and sought to prevent reproduction of certain races and people with disabilities.

Those who support renaming argued Jordan and Terman's active promotion of eugenics made them unfit namesakes for public schools. Those who oppose it feared changing the names would severe strong community ties between the schools and the generations of students who have passed through their halls.

The renaming of Terman is complicated by the fact that when the school reopened in 2001 it was named to honor both Lewis M. Terman and his son, Frederick, an accomplished electrical engineer often referred to as the "father of Silicon Valley." The renaming committee said it found no evidence that Frederick was involved in eugenics. While some community members believe the name could be retained to honor only the son, others have argued that only a total name change will disavow the father's legacy.

"Can we truly make a break with the name Lewis Terman if we retain Frederick? I think the answer to that is 'no,'" said Board Vice President Ken Dauber. "I don't think we have to cast aspersions on Frederick Terman to reach that conclusion."

Sitting in the audience at the district office on Friday were Terrance and Jim Terman, the grandson and great-grandson, respectively, of Lewis M. Terman. They said in an interview with the Weekly after the meeting that they only heard of the renaming proposal recently, after a sermon at their local church on historical legacy.

They said that they don't oppose renaming but hope the school will be formally renamed to honor Frederick.

"I feel like my grandfather is being thrown under the bus because no one has accused him of doing anything wrong, but there's somehow the idea 'because of his father he's tainted,'" said Jim, whose middle name is Lewis. "That's even more chilling -- the idea that you're not judged by your own actions or your own beliefs, but you're being judged by your immediate relatives."

Terrance said if a committee is created to rename the school, he hopes to serve on it.

As are many other school districts, colleges and universities across the country, Palo Alto has been grappling for more than a year with the many complex issues brought up by this debate: historical legacy, identity, inclusion, race and educational opportunity.

Board member Jennifer DiBrienza said Friday that it is the responsibility of a public school system to support all students — particularly marginalized ones — in both action and spirit. Despite the fact that Jordan died more than 80 years ago, "Deep-rooted bias didn't die with him," she said.

"It's still alive and well, even in our town," she continued. "Our schools have to be the ones that declare in the loudest voice possible that we reject that, that that's not OK."

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Comments

16 people like this
Posted by JLS grad
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2017 at 3:57 pm

I vote for Steven Jobs Middle School


114 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2017 at 4:04 pm

I am pretty disgusted that the School Board did not listen to the community that put them in charge as our elected representatives.

I can see this being reflected in future donations and elections. They had better not be surprised when the next bond for opening a new school fails or when they next have a budget shortfall.


44 people like this
Posted by Terrance Grange
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Mar 17, 2017 at 4:17 pm

wimps


113 people like this
Posted by Downtown North Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 17, 2017 at 4:33 pm

We will be withholding all donations for now on since clearly money is no object. Sorry PIE, sorry PTA. Not your fault but good luck trying to raise money with careless board members that this obviously doesn't matter to them. This was a "Nice To Have" if you have the money and we do not. [Portion removed.] Private school applications will be at record high again next year.


36 people like this
Posted by What's in a name
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2017 at 4:51 pm

I vote for Boaty McBoatface!


116 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2017 at 5:08 pm

This is a ridiculous decision.

I vote for naming the schools for David Starr Jordan and Frederick Terman.

I also think that we should NOT vote for any school board member who voted to change the names against the will of the majority of people in the community.


80 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2017 at 6:13 pm

In 2003, Terman re-opened at the current remodeled site and its name was proudly reaffirmed by a liberal progressive school district. Over the last 14 years, bond measures and parcel taxes were passed to reduce class sizes, maintain facilities and create a reserve in anticipation of requirements for a possible new campus.

Today, class sizes remain high and the schools still look about as well maintained as the buildings around the 30 year old Chernobyl nuclear disaster site. Recently, school administrators and teachers received a compensation package increase and PAUSD is running a budget deficit.

Now, Superintendent Max Magee says, "the one-time costs of renaming -- about $50,000, the committee estimated -- could be funded through a school bond voters approved in 2008. (The bond covers facilities updates like new signage and painting.)"

However, if they cannot squeeze blood out of that stone don't worry. School board representative Collins commented, "If there will be expenses outside the bond's scope, he hopes the community will step in to raise funds to defray those costs."

So if they can't succeed in re-directing funds from the bonds and they are running a deficit, they will simply come back to the community and ask it to pay for the renaming expenses.

In other news, Santa Clara County is allocating $3.5M to a legal defense fund for immigrants and gang related shootings on our freeways are up 67% year over year.
More side effects of mismanaged liberal progressive government.


52 people like this
Posted by sigh
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2017 at 6:18 pm

It's a silly move, totally unnecessary. Who even paid attention to those people. But I understand the pressure on the Board, not to appear to be supporters of something they don't support. Alas.

In any event, future names should not be person's names. Unnecessary conflict will arise, who needs it. Name the school after its street name, a neighborhood name, a tree, whatever, just not a person. And certainly not a corporation.

I went to the excellent P.S.233 and Jr.High252. Got a good education without the useless turmoil.


80 people like this
Posted by Steve Sailer
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2017 at 6:46 pm

I think the Palo Alto School Board should refuse to reveal any Palo Alto high school students' grades to Stanford U. until Stanford stops using for admission cognitive tests descended from Lewis Terman's Stanford-Binet test, such as the SAT and ACT. That's not who we are. Also the School Board should boycott any cooperation with Stanford U. until it plows under Fred Terman's Stanford Research Park.

Stanford U., and all of Silicon Valley, is infested from top to bottom with the Terman family's cognitive elitism. That does not represent our values. In fact, the Palo Alto school board should call off classes for the privileged and turn the schools into refugee camps for random people from around the world.


25 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 17, 2017 at 6:52 pm

I can hear the Stanford admissions committee already. A future applicant will have a resumé with this or similar accomplishment. Why would a college admit a student who will likely begin trying to change the names of buildings or of the entire university, not to mention antagonize most of the alumni? Maybe in the pursuit of "creative destruction".


74 people like this
Posted by let me be blunt
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 17, 2017 at 7:19 pm

Pretty sad commentary on our board. The RSAC was stacked with proponents of re-naming. They failed miserably in one of their key tasks (read their charter) of soliciting community feedback. And the board and Mr. McGee oversaw this process and didn't care even with our budget crisis.

But it's not too late. The renaming process will take a long time. Express your displeasure and withhold your donations. Perhaps some sanity will return once they see money disappear.

No more donations to PAUSD for me.


36 people like this
Posted by Ellie
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2017 at 7:29 pm

I am disappointed to realize how many of you most likely wealthy, educated PA residents seem unwilling to support something that stands up against discrimination and inequality. I'm wondering why this is such a big deal to you? [Portion removed.]


33 people like this
Posted by Thank you board
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 17, 2017 at 7:30 pm

Good job. Somehow I doubt that the smug self regard that is represented in this online forum is actually a big source of donations to the school district. Guess what -- we still have your taxes.


48 people like this
Posted by 5th Generation
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 17, 2017 at 7:56 pm

Sorry folks, but this was the right thing to do. Thank you School Board for showing some guts and teaching a wonderful lesson to our children.

We, as an ever-evolving society, must point out evil and wrong-headed thinking of the past (as well as the present), hold it up to ridicule and more!

There is nothing wrong with removing the plaques and honors bestowed on those whom history has proven wrong. Nothing.

Cheers!


61 people like this
Posted by School Parcel Tax
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2017 at 7:57 pm

Palo Alto homeowners 65 years and older can reduce their property tax bill by $758 per year by requesting to opt out of paying the Palo Alto School Parcel Tax. Most homeowners over 65 are unaware that they are eligible to waive the $758 school parcel tax bill. Call the PA School District office 329-3700 and request the waiver form. You will have to request and sign the waiver every year.


60 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Dear "5th Generation:"

Please enlighten us with all of the names in this city, county, state and nation that should be changed because of beliefs held by those individuals that are far outside of the norm now.


59 people like this
Posted by Terry
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 17, 2017 at 8:13 pm

Not a banner day in Palo Alto! Today the PAUSD voted to rename Jordan and Terman Middle Schools. Lots of luck finding a name of someone famous that doesn't have a few skeletons in his/her closet. I guess that leaves out people like Washington and Jefferson. Perhaps Stanford should be renamed because we all know how Leland treated the Chinese workers who built the railroad. Maybe Jordan should be named after a fish or plant!!!


14 people like this
Posted by Community Organizer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2017 at 8:28 pm

[Post removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by That's Why
a resident of University South
on Mar 17, 2017 at 8:31 pm

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by 5th Generation
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 17, 2017 at 8:39 pm

[Post removed.]


45 people like this
Posted by DZ
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 17, 2017 at 9:00 pm

It is a sad day for Palo Alto. It is sad day for Terman and Jordan if their spirits know what is going on with the progressive movement they have supported at their times. If they know the equality and inclusion they helped advanced can no long tolerate even their names being horned, I wonder what they will say.


6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2017 at 9:00 pm

[Post removed.]


77 people like this
Posted by lincolnavenue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 18, 2017 at 12:42 am

lincolnavenue is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] We throw away decades of history and memories and attachment to our community's schools because we are offended. Being offended is the most important skill we are developing in this country now. Being racist (even for guys 100 years ago when almost everyone was) is regarded as worse than murder. Literally. If it turned out that David Starr Jordan or Terman murdered someone, it would be considered more palatable than them having racist leanings 80 years ago. How hypocritical and soft and stupid. This kind of politically correct over-sensitivity is why 1/2 of this country is fed up. And no, I'm not a Trump voter. Isn't that amazing that I even have to say that? In this town, if you said you were a Trump voter, you would be viewed as racist, like David Starr Jordan, which would be worse than any possible crime. [Portion removed.] My condolences to the Terman and Starr families. Just amazing cowardice by the Board. Let's wipe these families out of existence because 80 years ago their great-grandparents weren't racially sensitive. Unreal.


32 people like this
Posted by Link
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2017 at 1:31 am

Link is a registered user.

Here's an idea. While we're at it, lets rename Escondido. The name leans Hispanic and could be offensive to the diverse composition of students. We want to be all inclusive.


9 people like this
Posted by MAKEAMERICAPROLIFEAGAIN
a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2017 at 1:42 am

MAKEAMERICAPROLIFEAGAIN is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


16 people like this
Posted by John94306
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2017 at 9:45 am

John94306 is a registered user.

Keep the last names, drop the first and middle names.

If anyone asks "Who was Jordan Middle School named after?", just say "Michael Jordan." :)


24 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2017 at 11:53 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Not Nayeli
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Not Nayeli is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2017 at 9:47 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Not Nayeli
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2017 at 10:13 pm

Not Nayeli is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2017 at 11:05 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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