The Auburn school district is accepting recommendations for a new name for its high school building.
Through May 5, people may submit nominations for the renaming of Auburn High School as part of a district review initiated in response to a student-led proposal to name the building after Harriet Tubman.
Back in January, some students launched a campaign for a new school name to honor the iconic abolitionist and former Auburn resident. Students' efforts included a petition that was presented to the district.
After several people weighed in on the renaming during a board of education meeting later that month, the Auburn Enlarged City School District Board of Education voted on a resolution that would explore and possibly start the process of renaming a school building.
At a meeting Tuesday, the board approved a new resolution establishing guidelines for the creation of an independent community advisory panel, along with authorizing a period for name nominations, a news release issued by the district said.
The nomination period began Wednesday and will continue through Wednesday, May 5. The board asks that every nomination be sent in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to 78 Thornton Ave., Auburn, NY 13021 before 4 p.m. on May 5.
Tuesday's resolution also seeks volunteers within the Auburn community to be on the advisory panel. The panel is meant to review the nominations and make a recommendation to the board. Those interested are asked to turn in their name, address, phone number, and email address in writing to the district office before the close of business of May 5.
The resolution, which is posted with the meeting agenda on the district's website, said once the nomination period is over, the board will pick a panel of 25 school and community representatives.
The board will seek nominations for the panel from Auburn High School student groups, AHS Sports Boosters, the AHS Music Boosters, AHS Alumni organizations, the district parent council, the Auburn Teachers Association, the district's Civil Service Employees Association local, other school-related groups, community groups and the community at large.
The board requests request that the name, email address, phone number, and group affiliation of two volunteers and one alternate to sit on the panel, be sent to the district office on Thornton Avenue through either email or post, before close of business May 5.
The resolution also noted that panel members should have a past or current direct connection to the high school. A committee of the board will select panelists for consideration before the board's May 11 meeting. The chosen panelists will be presented for the board's approval at that same meeting.
A recommendation from the committee needs to be reached before June 3, the resolution said. The board will consider the recommendation of the panel and vote on it at the board's June 8 meeting for final approval or denial.
Joe Sheppard, the Auburn school board president, said Thursday in an interview with The Citizen that the board's policy stated a period of nominations for names has to be open. When providing guidance for the policy, Sheppard said, the board's lawyer "recommended that we go out for a month or so."
Sheppard said that although the resolution specifies 25 panelists, the board could revisit the resolution and increase the committee's size. The district wants different people involved, but they want the community involvement to be focused.
"We don't want 200 people in a room arguing over stuff and then (nothing happens)", he said.
The board president said the district wants the community to get involved with the name nominations.
"I also want the community to know that the board has not made a decision to name the building Harriet Tubman High School," Sheppard continued. "If other nominations come in and the panel presents a different name to us, then that is the voice of the community."
He said he is hoping for a strong response from the community.
"The board feels very strongly that is a community decision. Yes, we're chosen to be the representatives of the community, but this is a community decision," Sheppard said.