• A photo of black woman working in a lab inserted over a photo of school entrance

      Insert: Mary W. Jackson (Photos – Scott Phelps, Public domain)

      On November 18 at a morning school assembly, Principal Rita Exposito announced to students, the school staff and the Jackson community the results of the voting by students and staff on a name change for the school.

      By Scott Phelps

      The process began during COVID and was recently brought to fruition. Principal Exposito said in an email announcing the results:

      We will be asking the Board of Education to consider our choice to officially change our current school name, Andrew Jackson Elementary, to the following:
      Mary W. Jackson STEAM Dual Language Magnet Academy.

      Mary Jackson was an American mathematician and aerospace engineer at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which in 1958 was succeeded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. She took advanced engineering classes and, in 1958, became NASA’s first black female engineer.

      Principal Exposito explained that, “Our entire school community thoughtfully and actively engaged in much research and many conversations to determine an appropriate name for our school. We were unhappy with the legacy of Andrew Jackson and considered names that would represent our values as a community. . . We wanted to involve our students in the decision and have them vote, along with our entire staff, on the name that they most wanted for our school. Through this process, we taught our students how democracy works, including the importance of each individual voice. We sent reading materials home so the discussions would take place among our families. The learning experience was meaningful and authentic, and we consciously made the decision to empower our students and community. I hope this news brings hope and joy to our community and to each of you as we look forward to an increasingly inclusive, tolerant, and united society in the future. I also hope the experience of making a decision through the democratic process (on Election Day) will inspire our students to be advocates for positive change.”

      Principal Exposito closed with “I’d like to express special appreciation to Board President [and longtime school supporter] Dr. Elizabeth Pomeroy for being present this morning and experiencing the joy and satisfaction we all felt to learn the results of an important effort of 2+ years. I appreciate her support today and countless times in the past. Thank you, Dr. Pomeroy! In this case, the pandemic slowed us down, but it only made our resolve stronger. Jackson pride will forever have a new meaning!”

      The name changes will be presented to the PUSD Board of Education for formal approval.

      A garden at a school with a walkway

      Jackson Community Pride Garden (Photo – Scott Phelps)

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      1. Sharon Larkin says:

        So very excited about the name change of my elementary school. I graduated from Jackson Elementary School in 1965. I lived across the street on Crosby. The school was ethnically diverse with mostly African-American and Japanese-American students, also Mexican-American and there were still White children whose parents soon moved away as part of White Flight. My public school education was outstanding! We never discussed the racist president even though our education at the time was still quite Eurocentric. Yet because of our ethnic diversity we appreciated each others cultures.

      2. David Neal says:

        Why would any American be angry about removing the name of a racist from a public school..?

      3. Gary Green says:

        Great news from Jackson School. This name change was proposed many months ago, and it is good to see revived. I ask that the Board of Education approve this name change as soon as possible.

        The article doesn’t mention it, but remember hearing that Dr. Mary Jackson once worked at JPL. If true that would be another reason to make the name change.

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