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Auburn school board starts process of considering renaming high school after Tubman

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Auburn High School senior Jane Oliver speaks at an Auburn school board meeting Nov. 17, 2020.

The Auburn Enlarged City School School District Board of Education voted to start the process of possibly renaming Auburn High School after the iconic abolitionist and former city resident Harriet Tubman.

The board voted at its meeting Tuesday night on a resolution that would explore and possibly start the process of renaming a school building. This move was made in light of the recent push by students to name the high school after Tubman

Before the resolution, a number of community members — including several current students — weighed in on the possible renaming. Various people spoke virtually at the public to be heard portion of the meeting, which was held remotely.

"While we do not believe that the name change could ever undo deeply rooted systematic issues, we do believe it is a step in the right direction," student Emerson Brown said.

Student Ailish Cuthbert also supports the renaming, adding she believed Auburn residents should be proud to live in the area Tubman called home and argued that the change would yield significant effects.

"It will encourage students to live by Harriet's example of bravery, hard work, determination and service to others. She is the type of person that the high school student body should look up to and aspire to be," she said. "It is very special that our town has a historical connection to such an inspirational figure and I think we should take this opportunity to honor her legacy."

After the public comments, Leah Digiovanni, one of the three student representatives on the board, said students who don't agree with the change have received backlash from others. Others, such as board members, argued for gauging all district students and community members for their opinion on the change.

Many people who spoke Tuesday night, including Auburn Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo, praised the the students for speaking out.

This latest renaming initiative — which includes an online petition — was brought up at the previous school board meeting. Student representative Jane Oliver mentioned previous unsuccessful endeavors to get the high school to bear Tubman's name. One attempt in 1995 by a group called Multicultural Students and Teachers Against Racism prompted a protest against the change where a large group of students walked out of the school.

Oliver said at the Jan. 12 board meeting that students understand the renaming would be a long process and they want to turn in a resolution to the board to make sure the change would be enacted no later than September 2021.

Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.


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Education and City Reporter

Hello, my name is Kelly Rocheleau, and I cover the education and city beats for The Citizen and I've been writing for the paper since December 2016.

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