Local school’s name might change to honor Paul Wellstone

The Marcy Open School, a fixture of the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, might soon be renamed to honor the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Parents, teachers, school administrators and community members discussed the possibility of a name change at a meeting in the school’s theater Thursday night.

A decision on the issue is not expected any time soon. Preliminary surveys of staff and teachers indicate evenly split opinion, principal Jane Ellis said.

The name change would cost an estimated $5,000. The Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association has not formally addressed the matter but plans to discuss the issue at its March 18 meeting.

Arvonne Fraser, a 50 year neighborhood resident whose children attended the school, opposes the change.

“I know the fervor of Paul and Sheila because I share it,” she said, “but I also come as a preservationist.”

Fraser, a Wellstone family friend, also said memorials to the Wellstones might be overdone, diluting their significance.

The school opened in 1878 and was named for William Marcy, a mid-19th century New York politician who served as secretaries of war and state for presidents James Polk and Franklin Pierce.

Marcy is best remembered for the quote, “To the victor belong the spoils of the enemy.”

The K-8 school occupied four buildings before it moved to its current location at Fourth Avenue Southeast and Fourth Street Southeast. It adopted its alternative “open school” format in 1971 and educates students from across east Minneapolis and some suburbs.

Meeting attendees said the school’s philosophy reflects Wellstone’s views on education, diversity and equal opportunity.

“There should be a Wellstone school in Minneapolis, and if any, this should be it,” said parent Sherri Lessinger.

Lessinger said her seventh-grade son, like many other current students, opposes the name change.

Middle school social studies teacher Jay Scoggin and others said the school’s namesake “has nothing to do with the school.” Some said the school’s name carries a tradition to be upheld.

Others worried the political baggage attached to the name change might be exclusionary.

“I’m afraid of limiting children’s political thought, even to my own,” said Jay Hartlen-Linell, an alumnus with a second-grade son at the school.

Although the school community reaches beyond Marcy-Holmes, City Council President Paul Ostrow, whose children attend the school, said neighborhood residents’ feelings are important.

“There’s a tremendous sense of ownership, even if it’s an open school,” he said.

Joe Mahon covers University

neighborhoods and welcomes comments at [email protected]