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Names for new Spokane middle schools: How to give your input Wednesday

Spokane residents can give their input for school names at the SPS board meeting Wednesday night.

SPOKANE, Wash. — This is the first time four schools will be named at the same time. On Wednesday, SPS will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. to ask for more public input on the finalists. Guests will be able to give their opinion at the meeting. The school board will then make a decision by May 26.

Community input has led to the nine finalists of three new Spokane middle school names. There are also suggestions to rename another school in Spokane.

All of the submissions are from the community. They were submitted through the school district's website in February.

The naming considerations were made from this list of requirements: 

  • A person who made a noteworthy contribution to education, community, or society.
  • A geographic characteristic based on location or primary function of the facility 
  • A logical association with the new school

The finalists and their full descriptions can be found on the SPS website.

Here they are:

Northeast Middle School: 

  • Beacon Pines
    • This name is in reference to Spokane's Beacon Hill. 'Beacon' is in reference to the tower on the hill. It was used in early aviation before radar. 
  • Denny Yasuhara
    • Mr. Yasuhara was an educator in Spokane. He also served as the president of the Spokane Coalition for Human Rights and was active within the Japanese community. The description also notes stories from students that say Yasuhara would often use his own paycheck to help students in need. He also left a legacy of fighting for all students, the hiring of minority teachers, justice for all. 
  • Frances Scott
    • Scott was Spokane's first Black female attorney. She was a teacher at Rogers High School in Spokane for more than 30 years. In the early 1970s, Scott decided to pursue her law degree at Gonzaga. She went on to practice law on the side, taking mostly civil rights and pro bono cases, all while still teaching at Rogers. 

Northwest Middle School:

  • Breckenridge
    • A recipient of the Washington Education Association Educator of the year award, Eugene Breckenridge was the first educator of color in the district. 
  • Pauline Flett
    • Flett was an advocate for the Salish language. Her work is why the dialect is written and preserved. Many of her notes are in collections at Eastern Washington University and the Smithsonian Institution. She contributed to the first Spokane-English dictionary.
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg
    • The late supreme court justice was a pillar in the fight for gender equality and women's rights. Ginsburg was the first Jewish woman and the second woman to serve on the court. 

South Middle School: 

  • Carla Peperzak
    • The 2020 Washingtonian of the Year was a Dutch Resistance operative and Holocaust freedom fighter. She is now a resident of Spokane after moving here in 2004. For years, she has shared her story with students and others across the region in the hopes that education will prevent anything like the Holocaust from ever occurring again. 
  • John Oakley 
    • John taught, coached and inspired students in SPS for 36 years. His wife and two sons are also educators, and his father was an SPS school board member. He spent his life on the South Hill and graduated from Ferris High School. He was a dedicated family man and educator who modeled to his students how to have a balanced, healthy life. After his ALS diagnosis, he continued to teach and coach, and in the process taught his students how to deal with adversity with a positive attitude. 
  • York
    • York was a Black explorer who traveled with the Lewis & Clark expedition. He is known as the first Black man to travel across North America. 

On Track Academy Building

  • On Track Academy 
    • The current name of On Track Academy. The original name was intended to reflect helping students get “On Track” for graduation. Some submissions asked if the school’s name needed to change just because it was getting a new building
  • Pacific NW Learning Academy
    • While “Pacific Northwest” denotes the region of the United States that includes Washington, Idaho and Oregon, it also signifies inclusivity and that all in this region are welcome. There is also a Pacific NW Academy in Wilsonville, Ore.
  • Way'sl'axt
    • A Salish phrase that means "hello friend," it is both a recognition of the rich cultural history of Spokane. The SPS website said this would be an invitation to students that all are welcome, valued and appreciated.