A new elementary school opened in the Hope Valley Farms area of ââDurham could be named after social justice icon Pauli Murray or the district’s first black woman principal.
Or a stream.
After heeding the public’s suggestions, Durham Public Schools have narrowed down their options for Elementary School F, which will open in August 2023 at South Roxboro Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.
Now the school board is asking Durhamites to choose from Pauli Murray Elementary School, Betty Massenburg Elementary School and Third Fork Elementary School.
Several board members were in favor of Murray at the start of Thursday night’s meeting.
“I really feel called to Pauli Murray Elementary School, and I think there’s a reason our community continues to share this [name] with us, âsaid Natalie Beyer, Board Member. “And I appreciate her role not only as a civil rights leader, but also as an LGBTQ pioneer.”
But then a descendant of Massenburg spoke.
“Betty DorÃ©tha Massenburg is perfect for a Durham Public School teaching building, âsaid Phyllis Massenburg. “She was the first African-American female principal in Durham Public Schools, the highest position she would be able to attain at that time.”
Massenburg was the first African-American woman to be principal of the Durham City School System in 1975 at Holloway Street Elementary School.
She has taught at Crest Street and Fayetteville Street elementary schools and has served as a teacher, dean of girls and vice-principal at Rogers Herr Middle School. She graduated from Fayetteville State University and obtained a Masters of Education from NC Central University.
According to the DPS, County Durham’s population has grown by 27% since 2010, requiring more schools in fast-growing areas of the county.
But even with the growth, there are still not enough opportunities to honor all the “amazing” staff in the district, Beyer said, explaining that she was reluctant to start naming sites after members of the district. DPS staff because there were so many.
Board member Frederick Ravin, however, said he supported the school’s name for Massenburg.
âRepresentation matters,â he said, âand that’s why it’s so important when you consider naming a school that you think about the lives of the children you impact when they walk through those doorsâ.
He then drew similarities between the schools he and Massenburg experienced growing up in Durham, which included Fayetteville Street School and the NCCU.
âAfter tonight, it’s between Murray Elementary – I also see value in that – and Betty Massenburg Elementary School,â Ravin said. “It’s just that right now I resonate more with Ms. Massenburg’s life.”
Pauli Murray House, documentary
The N&O recently reported on the life and national heritage of Murray, a lawyer, priest and poet who had a significant impact on civil rights, women’s and LGBTQ movements.
The new documentary “My Name is Pauli Murray” tells the story of the pioneering activist, who grew up in Durham.
Murray’s childhood home on Carroll Street is home to the Pauli Murray Center and was named a National Treasure in 2015 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2016, the National Park Service designated it a National Historic Landmark. The center will open to the public for the first time next year.
Due to the location of the future school near a stream, the name Third Fork Elementary School is also being considered.
The board of directors did not set a date for the choice of a name. Residents can tell the district what they think at tinyurl.com/y4662y34
This story was originally published 22 October 2021 13:43.