In the NEWS
An excerpt: 2018 marks 50 years since Dr. King’s assassination. It also marks 50 years since teachers and students at the school successfully campaigned to rename the school, formerly Highland School, after Dr. King.
It was 1968. Ronda Chiles was a sixth grader and among the many students who rallied for the name change [saying] those in support of the idea felt it would do more than just honor and memorialize Dr. King. They believed it would set a new standard for their own lives. A standard based on peace, love and acceptance. “Those are the things that Dr. Martin Luther King stood for,” Chiles said. “It’s what we wanted the legacy of our school to be.”
Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Shortly after that, students petitioned the school board to change the school’s name. The board approved the request on April 24.
“There was a long debate,” said Chiles of the weeks waiting for the petition to be approved. “I can remember fliers and memos and meetings in the cafeteria.” Most clearly, Chiles remembers the day Mr. Helm walked into class with the news. “He said, ‘We got the name change!’ The whole class just erupted in cheers and applause,” said Chiles, clapping her hands, reliving the moment. “We didn’t think it was going to happen.”
A lot has changed in the community around Martin Luther King Jr. School over the last 50 years; home values around the school have soared, new neighbors have moved in, perceptions have changed. Chiles said over the years, more and more people started abbreviating the school’s name, calling it simply, ‘King School.’ She said it reached the point where some new neighbors didn’t even realize who the school was named after.
Last year, students from Martin Luther King Jr. School’s leadership program went to the school board and asked that the school be referred to by its full name, Martin Luther King Jr. School. The board granted their request.
Chiles’ daughter, Shei’Meka Owens, is president of the Martin Luther King Jr. School Parent Teacher Association. Her daughters, Erica, 4, and Naomi, 6, both attend the school.
“I’m grateful to be a part of the community building that’s continuing to happen and with Dr. King being the nucleus of that,” Owens said [adding that] those who’ve claimed the school as their own have always found a way to come together. “That is the dream coming to fruition,” said Owens, holding back tears. “Not just keeping the dream alive but the dream starting to become true.”
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