Jefferson Elementary School renamed Delia Bolden Elementary School

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From SOMSD:

Board of Education passes resolution to officially rename Jefferson Elementary after CHS’s first African-American student and graduate Delia Bolden

July 1, 2022 – The School Board of South Orange & Maplewood School District (BOE) pursuant to Resolution 4320 [bit.ly/3bD0SJq] approved the renaming of Jefferson Elementary School to Delia Bolden Elementary School at its meeting on Wednesday, June 29.

Delia Bolden was the first African-American woman to graduate from Columbia High School in 1912. After graduating, Mrs. Bolden wrote a brilliant essay which was published in the 1912 yearbook and read at her debut. [Read the full essay here:  https://www.mattersmagazine.com/post/a-voice-from-the-archives].

As part of the BOE resolution, the District will take necessary actions, including but not limited to installing new signage and updating the District’s website, to reflect the new name of the District. by September 8, 2022. The district will also consider how to commemorate the building. Jefferson Elementary School’s former name and reasons for renaming the school grounds by June 30, 2023.

SOMSD Board Chair Thair Joshua said: “The school board is delighted with the new name of Delia Bolden Primary School. Picking Delia Bolden, who was the first African-American woman to graduate from Columbia High School in 1912, is a great way to begin the new legacy at school.

The Board of Education previously passed Resolution 4190 at its August 16, 2021 meeting directing the superintendent or designate to work with students at Jefferson Elementary School to seek input from the district’s student community to to propose a new name for the school to the board of directors. Education by June 30, 2022, so that the Board can vote on adopting such a name beginning with the 2022-2023 school year.

The Jefferson Elementary School community recommended five names to the school board for consideration, which the board shared with the public at its June 20, 2022, meeting and further discussed at its regular monthly public board meeting on June 20, 2022. June 27, 2022. The names of the students presented for board consideration were:

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

  • Erna Schneider Hoover, mathematician and inventor, CHS alumnus, class of 1944

  • Delia Bolden, first African-American woman to graduate from CHS, class of 1912

  • Amalya Lyle Kearse, first woman and second African-American to serve as a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, CHS Alumnus, class of 1955

  • Joetta Clark Diggs, track and field athlete and four-time Olympian (1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000), CHS alumnus, class of 1980; and

  • The New Legacy Elementary School was also offered as part of the attribute approach, but the students ultimately chose to name the school after a notable person (acronym “LEGACY”: L-learned, learning, lifelong learners ; E-engaged, excellence, Ethics Citizens; G-gifted, goal-oriented, revolutionary; A-ambitious, accepting, achievement; C-creative, confident, cooperative; Y-desire, youthful, year-round)

As part of the initial process, all teachers taught name story lesson plans. In this first step, to help students understand the importance and power associated with names, they created “Name Stories”. Students listened to Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez Neal and wrote their own names in their journals. Many students shared their name stories with their classmates.

For the second part of the process, all classes selected positive attributes that they wanted to see considered in the renaming process. Students received copies of the school’s mission statement, as well as copies of SOMSD’s mission statement. They were encouraged to make connections between mission statements and positive attributes. Most classes chose acronyms whose commonalities among the suggestions were: Diversity/Diversity, Acceptance, Perseverance/Determination, and Respect/Kindness.

The Grade 5 subcommittee students reviewed the submissions for the Attribute Approach. They then weighed the merits and creativity of each attribute and narrowed it down and voted for their favorite submissions. Based on these submissions, the student subcommittee reviewed the various positive traits and attributes they examined in Session #1 and were encouraged to consider individuals who exemplify these traits. When researching potential candidates for the name change, students were encouraged to look closely at the person’s accomplishments, personal qualities, and demeanor. Accomplishments: Have they accomplished anything significant in their lifetime? Have their achievements marked history? Did they somehow improve the lives of others? Personal qualities: Do they possess the qualities and attributes that we value? Did they have to overcome obstacles to succeed? Are they inspiring to others? Behaviour: Does their behavior show that they like all kinds of people? Simply put, do their actions and beliefs show that they are a good person?

Superintendent of Schools, Dr Ronald Taylor also said, “I am extremely proud of the efforts of Principal Hutchinson, her leadership team, teachers and students for their sincere work. When the Board began discussing the possibility of this name change, I recommended engaging our students. Our educators and students far exceeded my high expectations. They turned this opportunity into the ultimate learning moment. A thoughtful, real-life civic experience that will impact our community for decades to come. Indeed, they educated us all not only on the new namesake, but also on four (4) other very worthy candidates. Women of distinction whose heritage we all know better.

Many thanks to the Jefferson School community, administrators and staff for leading this charge, resulting in a historic moment for the current Delia Bolden Elementary School and to the Jefferson families for their support! The District acknowledges the significant contribution of the entire Jefferson student body who participated in the name change process, members of the name change committee, and staff who helped facilitate the process. Additionally, we would like to thank the Columbia High School Alumni Archives Committee for helping to identify Ms. Bolden and several other Columbia alumni who were considered for this honor.

[See attachments: Photos of Delia Bolden and 1912 Newark Evening Star published article of Ms. Bolden’s commencement speech and article]

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