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Rochester school board votes ‘yes’ to 7 new school names

Benjamin Franklin High School Campus
James Brown
The Franklin Campus will be the Padilla High School starting next school year.

The Rochester Board of Education voted to establish new names for seven schools in the city school district this week. It's part of the district’s school reconfiguration initiative that district leaders call the ‘Invest in Tomorrow’ plan.

A new high school that will be at Franklin Campus next year is the only one of the seven schools to be named after a Latino figure. It was also the only one that received pushback at Tuesday's school board meeting.

“While there are some, you know, argument to perhaps name it after a person, African American, I'm not going to fight it,” School board president Cynthia Elliott said,

Board members Jacqueline Griffin and James Patterson said they’d received phone calls from people at Franklin who did not agree with the decision to establish the Padilla High School on the Franklin Campus.

Patterson expressed confusion over the pronunciation of the family name, and whether it was being named after Nancy Padilla who was a former school board president.

“The phone calls that I received, they were like, ‘Listen, we don't have anything against her, but she didn't do any work in this area, she did work in the Hispanic area, and maybe a school, maybe Monroe would be a better fit,’” Patterson said.

Superintendent Carmine Peluso said Padilla High School refers to generations of the Padilla family who have been prominent figures in the Rochester community since the mid 1900s.

“There is a strong Latin community in the Northeast where Franklin is,” Peluso said. “But Juan Padilla, and we're going back into the family in this and far into the name, was the first teacher to bring bilingual programming to Franklin High School.”

Commissioner Isaiah Santiago, who identifies as Afro-Latino, said he supports the decision to add a second school with a Latino name to the district’s portfolio.

“I'm glad to see the Rochester pride,” Santiago said. “And I hope that you know while the schools do transition into these new names that it is also used as a teaching tool to our young people that you can also be such an amazing historic person like these people.”

District leaders have until March 1st to submit the new school names to the State Education Department for approval.

Here is the district’s full list of school name changes and the district’s descriptions of the people they are named after:

Dr. Freddie Thomas Middle School, 625 Scio Street

  • Dr. Freddie Thomas excelled in numerous fields throughout his lifetime. Hailing from Virginia, he pursued studies at Virginia State University, Wagner College, Albany Medical School, and the University of Rochester. Notably, he made significant contributions to biological research at the Eastman Kodak Company and the University of Rochester.  

Andrew Langston Middle School, 1 Edgerton Park

  • Andrew Langston, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Monroe County Broadcasting Company and WDKX-FM, dedicated six years to navigating the complexities of FCC regulations to secure FM frequency 103.9 for his radio station. WDKX finally commenced broadcasting on April 6, 1974, marking a significant milestone as one of the earliest black-owned radio stations in New York.  

Thurgood Marshall Middle School, 4115 Lake Avenue

  • Thurgood Marshall was an American civil rights lawyer and jurist. He served as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1967 to 1991, becoming the first African American justice on the Court.  

Loretta Johnson Middle School, 200 Genesee Street

  • A longtime Rochester school administrator, Loretta Johnson became the first woman to lead the District as Interim Superintendent from 1994 to 1995. Johnson came to Rochester in 1969 and taught elementary school.  

Padilla High School, 950 Norton Street (Franklin Campus)

  • One of the earliest migrants to reach Rochester was the Padilla Family, led by patriarch Ramon. He began his new life in Rochester working for American Home Foods, a major employer of Puerto Ricans. The Padilla family included Mr. and Mrs. Padilla and their ten children, several of whom have held positions within the district and are pillars of the Rochester community.  

Ida B. Wells-Barnett Elementary School, 530 Lexington Avenue (formerly Dr. Louis A. Cerulli School No. 34)

  • A prominent journalist, activist, and researcher in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Ida B. Wells-Barnett spearheaded a vigorous campaign against lynching in the United States. She embraced the women’s club movement throughout her lifetime, urging women to participate in clubs where they could take charge and wield influence.  

Austin Steward Elementary School, 250 Newcastle Road (formerly Charles Carroll School No. 46)

  • An African American abolitionist and author, Austin Steward escaped slavery around age 21 and settled in Rochester. He started a successful business in Rochester, a meat market and general store. Mr. Steward championed economic, political, and social equality through his writings and lectures. 
Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.