School board approves Barack Obama Elementary name
New Upper Marlboro school under construction gets presidential moniker
An elementary school under construction in Upper Marlboro will be named for President Barack Obama.
The Prince George's County school board approved the name by a unanimous vote Thursday night. The 792-student school being built next to Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School is expected to open in August 2010.
Board member Pat J. Fletcher (Dist. 3) spoke of civil rights leaders such as Malcolm X and Shirley Chisholm who gave generations hope for the future.
"For my grandchildren, it is no longer a hope but a reality, and for many of our children, it's a reality now," Fletcher said. "And it is apropos that it be an elementary school where learning begins. It gives our kids a sense of connecting the dots."
Several school districts around the country have named schools after Obama since he was elected president in November 2008.
Among the schools that have already been named for Obama are a charter school in Compton, Calif., a middle school in Oakland, Calif., an elementary school in Hempstead, N.Y., and a high school in Plainfield, N.J.
Mykel Harris, chairman of the county's Republican Central Committee, said during the public comment period that the school board is a non-partisan board and naming the school after Obama would be inappropriate.
"I don't think it's too much to ask that you all not make political endorsements by naming a school after a sitting United States president," Harris said.
Harris questioned rhetorically whether the school board was prepared to name a school after prominent black Maryland politicians, such as former Maryland Lt. Gov. and current Republican National Committee chairman Michael S. Steele (R), U.S. Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Dist. 4) of Fort Washington or former U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Dist. 4) of Mitchellville.
Board Vice-chairman Ron L. Watson (At-large) said the decision was not political.
"If [former Secretary of State] Colin Powell were the president, I'd be the first to put the same resolution forward. It's not about Republican or Democrat, it's about what can we continue to put in front of our children to give them hope," Watson said. "If anybody gives them hope it's President Barack Obama."
In predominantly democratic Prince George's, Obama enjoyed substantial support among county residents, garnering 89 percent of the county's votes in the November election.