Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

January 16, 2014

North Park name unchanged

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — North Park Junior High School is keeping its name but Lockport City Schools may find another way to honor Aaron Mossell, the African-American businessman who was instrumental in desegregating Lockport schools.

The North Park renaming committee recommended not changing the Passaic Avenue school’s name to the Board of Education Wednesday. Susan Tomaszewski of Orleans/Niagara BOCES, who served on the committee, said members felt there were other ways to honor the memory of Mossell.

Mossell supplied bricks for a school being built across from his family’s home on High Street, then tried to send his children there rather than the school for blacks several miles away. He pressed the Lockport School Board for five years, finally succeeding in 1876.

This led to the closing of Lockport’s separate school for black children, allowing black children to attend the regular schools. Almost 80 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court case that desegregated schools across the country.

One of the big concerns was that renaming a school after Mossell might not be the best way to keep his memory alive, Tomaszewski said.

”Any number of your buildings that are named after people, how many do the kids actually know who those people are?” Tomaszewski said. “The committee really wants to make sure Aaron Mossell is recognized for his contributions.”

People felt the North Park name helped maintain the community feel, Tomaszewski said.

The committee recommended making Mossell’s story a major component of the districtwide history curriculum. Members also suggested naming a new driveway after Mossell and build a brick wall that would have a granite marker on it honoring him.

”You brought back some great scenarios to honor somebody,” Board Trustee Thomas Fiegl said. “The district should adopt one of those and it should be a part of history class.”

A formal presentation will be made next week at the board’s regular meeting.

Mossell was the only renaming proposal the committee received, which it did from a group of residents in 2012.

Most of Lockport’s buildings are named after an individual, save for the high school and North Park. The school opened as an elementary building in 1940 and was a middle school until the district reorganized in 2011, moving all seventh- and eighth-graders to North Park and calling it a junior high school.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.