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Princeton Unified Middle School Principal Jason Burr described  teachers’ plans to engage students academically with the renaming of the school, as well as plans to engage the community in the project at Tuesday's Board of Education Meeting.

The plan includes Princeton High School students researching names suggested during community meetings, by alumni, and through the Princeton Historical Society. Some students at PHS have already completed projects.

"Working on this project was very exciting, and being a part of it has helped me learn a quite a bit about different people and their experiences. I believe that giving a chance to younger students to voice out their opinions is a good way to decide on the middle school’s name," said PHS student Yugandhara Luthra, one of about a dozen students who participated in the first phase of the naming project.

"I was really excited when I found out we were going to do be doing research on renaming Princeton Unified Middle School. It's a big responsibility to be able to rename the school, and I'm looking forward to see a name that welcomes and represents all Princeton students," said PHS student Ellie van der Schaar.

Princeton High School Social Studies teacher Katie Dineen was one of the first faculty members to engage students in the project. "In this age of digital learning, we've expanded the support that the Princeton Historical Society, New-York Historical Society, and community partners could provide," she said. "This was the first time I, personally, have ever had students engage with oral histories for a research project - and it's all been through Zoom."

High school students will advocate for the names they have researched in formal discussions and debates and will present their work via a November 20 webinar to students at the middle school. Middle school students then will discuss options in the context of other recent naming controversies across the country.

Working in teams, they will develop arguments in favor of naming the school after a specific individual, maintaining a nonspecific name such as Princeton Unified, or reverting to a version of the school’s historic name, John Witherspoon Middle School.

Teams will prepare documentary slideshows presenting their reasoning first to classmates and later to future middle schoolers, now in the fifth grade. Six teams then will be selected to present their arguments to the middle school student body. Students will vote, creating a list of finalists to be presented during a February Zoom meeting to the community at large.

Illustrative examples of student research projects will be posted on a public website, along with a list of names suggested to date. Members of the community are invited to share their further suggestions for a permanent name via an online form.

In September, the district created a committee composed of community members, alumni, and educators to guide the process of selecting a new name and to make the process as inclusive and educationally meaningful as possible.

In public discussions in August and September, community members suggested a wide variety of possible names.

The school’s previous name honored a signer of the Declaration of Independence who was also the sixth president of Princeton University. However, John Witherspoon owned slaves, and that was the impetus for a petition last summer seeking the name change, which garnered over 1,500 signatures. Princeton Unified Middle School was chosen by the board as a temporary name pending a final decision in June 2021.

Suggested Names 

John Lewis Middle School

Betsy Stockton Middle School

Paul Robeson Middle School

Silvia Dubois Middle School

Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Nation Middle School

Powhatan Renape Nation Middle School

Shirley Satterfield Middle School

Albert Einstein Middle School

Michelle Obama Middle School

John Witherspoon Middle School

Ramapough Lenape Indian Middle School

Nation (Ramapugh Mountain Indians) 

Princeton Unified Middle School

Arthur Tappan Middle School

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Middle School

Dr. Cornell West Middle School

Joseph Bloomfield Middle School

Albert Hinds Middle School

Zoom Information

When: Nov 17, 2020 07:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Topic: Board Meeting Tuesday November 17th 7:30 P.M.

Please click the link below to join the webinar:

Passcode: 530899

Or iPhone one-tap : 

    US: +13126266799,,88585159079#  or +16465588656,,88585159079# 

Or Telephone:

    Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):

        US: +1 312 626 6799  or +1 646 558 8656  or +1 301 715 8592  or +1 346 248 7799  or +1 669 900 9128  or +1 253 215 8782 

Webinar ID: 885 8515 9079

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