OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A committee tasked with preserving the legacy of a former school in northeast Oklahoma City has released its recommendations to the Oklahoma City Public School Board.
Last year, officials with the Oklahoma City Public School District announced their Pathway To Greatness plan. The plan aimed to save the district money by combining schools with lower enrollment numbers.
As a result, students from Classen School of Advanced Studies moved into the 82-year-old building that served as Northeast Academy. Critics and Northeast alumni began speaking out about the plan after learning that the school would be named Classen SAS at Northeast.
“It’s not fair that a school on one side of the community can come to a school on this side of the community, which is a predominantly African American community, and strip us of our culture. Strip away the culture and our name,” said Charles Henry, a member of the Oklahoma City Public School Board.
Northeast High School alumni and board member Charles Henry fought back against the plan, suing some of the school board members for how the name change was handled during the board meeting discussions.
Although the lawsuit was eventually dismissed, the district created three Northeast Legacy committees to help preserve the history of the original school.
"Northeast High School stood as a cornerstone for integration and progression in Oklahoma City Public Schools,” said Dr. Marsha Herron, OKCPS' Executive Director of Equity and Innovation. “It gave so much to so many and should live on through the building and grounds for all to see."
On Monday, the committees presented their recommendations for how to honor the history of Northeast High School.
“From the beginning, OKCPS has been committed to working together with families, alumni and the existing school community to honor the legacy of Northeast,” said Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel. “The Board and I recognize that the Northeast name has important and unique historical significance to our district and our city. Through committee work and other efforts, OKCPS is dedicated to preserving the history of Northeast while continuing our quest for academic and artistic excellence at Classen SAS High School at Northeast.”
The naming committee identified four people it felt should be honored in the school.
It asked that the library and media center be named in honor of Mrs. Joyce Henderson, the former principal of Northeast and Classen SAS.
"I am honored by this recognition. I hope my love and caring for my students played a role in this recognition," Henderson said.
The committee also asked that the choir room be named for Mrs. Cordelia Bennett, a former Northeast music teacher and dedicated musician.
"I believe it is well-deserved! She put in so much time and effort into students at Northeast and across the district. Her work has lived on through students who have done legendary things," said Harriett Cooper, Bennett's daughter.
The group asked that the band room be named after Mr. Alvin Jernigan, a former band teacher at Northeast and Classen SAS.
"I am a servant of the Lord, and this really humbles me," Jernigan said.
At this point, the committee is still working on the details of renaming a portion of N.E. 32nd St.
The Plaza and Alumni Room committees are working on the 'Northeast Viking Pride Plaza,' which will be refurbished with fresh landscaping and will house Viking benches and a monument that honors the school's history.
The groups also are working on the Northeast Alumni Room, which will commemorate the history with items like trophies, photos, championship banners and records from school alumni.