Out with the old and in with the new, Peoria Public Schools board considers changing six district school names

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria Public Schools board considers renaming six district schools.

Monday, board member Gregory Wilson, made an announcement before the end of a school board meeting. Under this racial climate, he asked the board to consider changing the names of certain schools in the district.

I think now is the time to change and if not now, when?

Gregory Wilson, Peoria Public Schools

Those schools include Charles Lindbergh Middle School, Washington Gifted Middle School, Roosevelt Magnet School, Calvin Coolidge Middle School, Harrison Community Learning Center, and Thomas Jefferson Primary School.

“We have children, black children that go to this school, that if Thomas Jefferson was alive he would not welcome these black students in sight of this school,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he is displeased with honoring people tied to racist beliefs and slavery; some parents with students in PPS said they feel the same way and are ready for a change.

Ryan Lowery of Peoria has kids in the district. He said changing school names should not be considered erasing history, but telling more of our nation’s story.

“When we honor the names of presidents like Thomas Jefferson who we know as a US president but also as a slave owner but also a man who has built and attained wealth through the exploitation of enslaved people we have to examine that and I think that there are better people we can honor and pay homage to through the naming of our local schools,” Lowery said.

We made a Facebook post requesting community input regarding the proposal to change names. Most people responded in opposition to the idea. Some people commented urging school leaders to leave the school names alone.

One Person wrote, “Thomas Jefferson was a significant contributor to the good things in our country. I feel that’s a bit far in trying to be culturally sensitive. If it were a confederate general who’s claim to fame is fighting to keep slavery intact then take it off. Thomas Jefferson wasn’t that though.”

School leaders are brainstorming new names for school buildings. A couple of the suggestions include the late civil rights icon, Reverend C.T. Vivian and Bishop Harold Dawson Jr., a local pastor that died last year.

Wilson said before any decisions are made the school board will ask for community input.

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