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Public hearing to be held on four proposed names for Madison Memorial High School

Memorial High School in Madison (Source: WMTV).
Memorial High School in Madison (Source: WMTV).(NBC15)
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 1:28 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - James Madison Memorial High School is one step closer to a potential rebranding, as the Ad Hoc Citizens’ Renaming Committee will hold a public hearing Wednesday to discuss the options for a new name.

The four names up for debate are:

  • Darlene M. Hancock Memorial High School
  • Memorial High School
  • Vel Phillips Memorial High School
  • Bruce Dahmen Memorial High School

The public hearing comes after a former student asked the district to rename the high school for former Wisconsin Secretary of State Velvalea “Vel” Phillips.

In a letter addressed to MMSD Superintendent Dr. Carlton Jenkins, Mya Berry argued the school should not be named for former president James Madison because of his ownership of over 100 slaves and his support for the Three-Fifths Compromise, which enshrined into the U.S. Constitution that slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of assigning congressional representatives and taxation.

“Madison was a person that benefited off of the exploitation of Black bodies, and those who embarked in such acts of racism should have no influence in today’s culture,” Berry argued. “Expecting Black students to attend a school named after a slave owner is antiBlack.”

Berry also pointed to experiences of Black students, parents, alumni, and community members whom she said suffered discrimination as well as academic disparities within the high school.

After Berry’s proposal, Madison School Board president Gloria Reyes announced the renaming process in March, opening a 30-day window for the other names to be proposed.

The virtual public hearing begins at 5 p.m. Wednesday. To register to speak or submit a written statement, you can go to MMSD’s website.

Once the public hearing is finished, the Committee may deliberate again or set another meeting date before they finalize recommendations to the Board of Education.

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