Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

February 9, 2013

Name change

BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — North Park Junior High School may be getting a new name.

Lockport Board of Education members decided Wednesday to create a committee that would look into the matter. But first, the district’s policy committee will make a few adjustments to the regulation concerning naming or renaming of school buildings. That policy is expected to be approved at its meeting next week.

The policy, number 7110 Naming or Renaming School Facilities, Plaques and Memorials, was approved in October. Prior to that, the city school district did not have a policy in place that dealt with the naming or renaming of buildings.

“We didn’t have one before, so we want to make sure it’s solid,” said Trustee Edward Sandell, who chairs the policy committee.

But after Wednesday’s discussion, trustees determined some tweaks on the policy were needed.

The policy currently calls for a committee made up of an administrator, teacher, student, school board member and two community members, one of which should be a parent of a student. An administrator and board member would be appointed by district officials and a chairperson would be chosen by the committee members.

The committee would be tasked with not only deciding whether or not to change North Park’s name, but figuring the cost of that change. The entire process is expected to take no longer than six months.

Renaming North Park came up about a year ago, when a group of residents asked the Board of Education to consider renaming the school in honor of Aaron A. Mossell. Mossell was a 19th-century businessman who was instrumental in the desegregation of Lockport schools in 1876.

Mossell was a native of Baltimore and the son of a freed slave. During the Civil War, Mossell settled in Lockport, an area known for its sympathy toward black Americans and for its role in the Underground Railroad. Mossell began his brick making business on Walnut Street and later opened a hotel, employing workers of all races.

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. That was almost 80 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court case that desegregated schools across the country.

But what if there were multiple proposals for a new name on a school? Board President John Linderman said he has received calls just casually asking if the district would consider renaming North Park with another name. Board Vice President David Nemi said there should be a time limit for when the committee will accept renaming proposals. 

”You don’t want this committee to be on-going, forever,” Nemi said.

The updated renaming policy would allow the committee to set up its own timeline, which would include a limit on receiving proposals. Linderman said the committee will make a recommendation, then the final decision would rest with the Board of Education.

Most of Lockport’s buildings are named after an individual, such as John Pound, a former Board of Education president and Washington Hunt, a governor and first Niagara County Court judge. The only two without a person’s name are Lockport High School and North Park.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.