DMPS to rename Andrew Jackson Elementary after NASA’s Mary Jackson

Des Moines Public Schools’ Jackson Elementary will continue to be called Jackson Elementary but will honor a new historical figure going forward.

The Des Moines School Board voted unanimously to change the name at its meeting on Tuesday. The students started the name change campaign about two years ago while researching a class assignment to find out if the school should change its name. At a school board meeting last month, Jackson students cited the seventh president of the United States, who owned slaves and abused Native Americans, as two of many reasons they were advocating for a name change.

The children argued that Mary Jackson, NASA’s first black female engineer, was a better fit in part because the school’s name should reflect the diversity of its student body.

Mary Jackson’s story was made famous in the 2016 book and movie “Hidden Figures.”

Mary Winston Jackson (1921-2005) successfully overcame barriers of segregation and gender bias to become a professional aerospace engineer and equal opportunity leader for future generations.  NASA/Courtesy

Related:DMPS Jackson Elementary students aim for the stars with name change suggestion

Of nearly 400 students, 25% are white, about 36% are Hispanic, 12% are black and about 20% are Asian, according to state data.

Parents, students and staff present at the meeting quietly clapped and applauded after the vote.

Jackson’s fourth-grade student Maximus Vannavong, who spoke at last month’s meeting, attended Tuesday’s meeting.

“I’m glad that has changed and been approved,” Maximus said.

Council Chair Dwana Bradley thanked the students for their hard work.

“It’s very important and valuable and people listen and pay attention when you use your voice,” Bradley said.

Ahart praised the primary staff for the work they are doing with the students.

“The Jackson staff intentionally created an opportunity for students to discuss certain issues relating to our history and equity,” Ahart said. “And the students came up with this idea.”

Related:Johnson County will build a memorial to its new namesake – black scholar Lulu Merle Johnson

Changing the school’s name is part of a larger national call to rename sports teams, mascots, awards and street names. In Iowa, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted to rededicate Johnson County after historian and college administrator Lulu Merle Johnson, a native of Gravity, Iowa, died last year. The county’s original namesake was former Vice President Richard Mentor Johnson.

There will be a fee to change the school name as Andrew Jackson Elementary appears on the front of the building.

Jackson’s principal, Cindy Wissler, has been assured that the cost of replacing the sign will not come out of the school’s budget.

Wissler is proud of the hard work of her students.

“Their voices have been heard,” she said.

Samantha Hernandez is in charge of education for the Registry. Contact her at (515) 851-0982 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @svhernandez or Facebook at facebook.com/svhernandezreporter.nged

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