Thanks to our ACPS School Board, Alexandria's new west end elementary school has been named for Ferdinand T. Day.
They did so despite the fact that none of the four alternatives offered by the hardworking and well-meaning volunteer committee recommended doing so. The committee did, however, include Day in combination with Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina astronaut, the current director of the Johnson Space Center, a Latina from California.
Ochoa's name was put forward because the school is intended to focus on STEM, Latinos will attend the school in strong numbers, she has been a success in that field, and she is a Latina. At the board meeting, the first motion made was for the school to be called Day-Ochoa.
Yet, Ochoa has other schools named for her and no school has been named for Day. Indeed, many other schools are likely to be named for Ochoa, but this was viewed as Day's only likely chance. As well, a science lab, some other element of the school or an award could still be named for her to inspire students.
Importantly, a strong contingent speaking up for Day and his remarkable lifetime contributions to our city convinced the School Board that he deserved a singular honor and not a shared one.
As one board member put it, they decided to give greater weight to our "hometown hero."
The five board members who supported the name change were Chris Lewis, Bill Campbell, Hal Caldwell, Karen Graf and Ronnie Campbell. Veronica Nolan also voted for the name change. The final vote was 8-1, after the motion was amended to the new name.
Many members of the community came out to speak on his behalf, including his daughter, Gwen Day-Fuller, former school board members; two members of the naming committee, Jim Henson and Blanche Maness; Paul Friedman, who spoke about the need for the elected School Board to take responsibility for their final decision rather than direct people to their unelected naming committee; and many people who knew Ferdinand well, including Lynwood Campbell, Nelson Greene Jr, MacArthur Myers and Deacon Al Anderson from St. Joseph's Church and who were able to describe his many contributions to Alexandria in detail.
Chris Harris, Jacinta Greene, and Janet Barnett were also there to support the effort
Showing up in big numbers mattered and Chris Lewis expressed a wish that as many people would come to support the School Board budget.
The speakers reinforced that there was a great story of overcoming adversity and the value of helping others to tell, and that there would be many people in the community ready to support and be involved in the new school.
Gwen Day-Fuller made the most telling point that her father would "never have sought this for himself. e was about honoring the community." Now, though, it was the right thing to do for the community to honor him.
Barack and Michelle Obama were also suggested by the naming committee. onetheless, I am sure President Obama would be pleased to know that a civil rights pioneer was accorded this honor.
Barack loved to talk about the people that paved the way to make his Presidency possible and I think one of his favorite quotes from Martin Luther King is very appropriate: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."