Middle school naming committee closer to final recommendation

December 16, 2015

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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NEW — 4:17 p.m. Dec. 16, 2015

The group charged with helping the Renton School District name its new middle school is inching closer to a final recommendation.

The school naming committee met at Newcastle’s Hazelwood Elementary School Dec. 15 to further explore and shorten a list of citizen-submitted names for the district’s fourth middle school.

Names of living and deceased figures relevant to the district and Newcastle are still on the table.

Renton High School graduate Sally Jewell, current U.S. secretary of the Interior, will receive additional consideration at the committee’s third and final meeting, as will Vera Risdon a longtime Renton educator with experience working in Newcastle.

Those two are the only living candidates the group advanced for more review. Committee members seemed hesitant, though, to name the school after a living person.

The group will also take a closer look at Adriena Baima, Billy Frank Jr., Clifford Donley and Ernest Milton Swanson as potential names. All four are deceased.

Baima and Swanson both have direct roots in the Newcastle area. Generations of the Baima family worked in the Newcastle mines, and the family’s Pacific Coast Coal Co. house still sits in city limits. The Baima House is one of the oldest standing houses in King County and is a King County Historical Landmark.

Swanson worked in the mines and was the foremost historian on Newcastle history. He was born and raised in this community, spending all of his 95 years in the area, 90 of which were in the same company house that still stands at the edge of town near the Cougar Mountain trailhead.

Donley was the second African American hired by the district and was a key mentor for many educators of color. Frank Jr., who posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was a tireless advocate for Native American treaty rights and environmental stewardship.

Coal Creek, May Creek and Duwamish middle school also advanced for further name consideration.

The committee, which is made up of district staff members, parents and community members, will meet for a final time 6:45-9 p.m. Jan. 19 at the district office, 300 S.W Seventh St., Renton. There will be time for public comment.

That’s when they will finalize its list of names and adopt a recommendation. They will present “no more than five” name possibilities to the Renton School Board, the body that will make a final decision.

The district collected public input through an online survey until mid-November. District officials outlined the following criteria when choosing a name:

— A nominated name will be widely known to, and significant to, the community.

— The names submitted will not conflict nor cause confusion with the names of other facilities in the district or surrounding districts.

— The use of names of living persons will be avoided unless the circumstances warrant an exception.

— The names of key supporting organizations may be used.

The new middle school opens fall 2016 next to Hazelwood Elementary School.

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