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An Ad Hoc Committee appointed to consider a proposal to rename Haven Middle School in honor of Mayor Lorraine Morton will hold a public forum to obtain input, at 7 p.m. on Feb. 4 at Fleetwood Jourdain, 1655 Foster Street. The Committee will meet next on Feb. 11 to decide on a recommendation for the District 65 School Board. Mary Erickson, president of the School Board, said the Board is scheduled to act on the proposal on Feb. 17. Ms. Erickson’s appointed committee, consists of about 15 persons, including two School Board members, the Superintendent, Haven’s principal and assistant principal, Haven’s PTA co-presidents, several teachers, two students, and community members. The Committee held an organizational meeting on Jan. 27, chaired by Dick Peach. The Proposal to Rename the School In December, Haven’s principal, Kathleen Roberson, and members of Haven’s library committee suggested that the new library/media center at Haven school be named in honor of Mayor Morton. Expanding on that suggestion, Ms. Erickson proposed at the Dec. 15 School Board meeting that the Board consider renaming Haven Middle School as “Morton Middle School,” in honor of Mayor Morton. Ms. Erickson said, “Mayor Morton has left a legacy to our community. She should be honored in a very special way.” Mayor Morton has a long record of service to School District 65 and the City of Evanston. In 1953 Mayor Morton started teaching in School District 65 at Foster School, which at the time was comprised of all African-American students. Four years later, she became the first African-American academic teacher to teach in a District 65 school other than Foster School. She later served as principal of Haven School from 1977 through 1989. On the City side, Mayor Morton has served as mayor since 1993, and is the longest-sitting mayor in Evanston’s history. Before that she served as an alderman for the Fifth Ward for three terms. Members of the Committee spoke highly of Mayor Morton at the Jan. 27 meeting. “This would be a great way to honor the mayor,” said former alderman Evelyn Raden. “She is really a trailblazer. She truly is a living legend,” said School Board member Bonnie Lockhart. “She has been a champion of education. … She is worthy of this honor,” said Haven Assistant Principal Fred Hunter. Proposing Other Ways to Honor the Mayor Many Haven parents are urging that the name of the school stay the same and that the new library at Haven school or the City’s civic center be named in the mayor’s honor. Haven parent Nicole Jacob Marks has been circulating a petition asking that the name of Haven Middle School remain the same. “I do not think that buildings specifically named for people should be changed,” she told the RoundTable. “I do think something should be named after Mayor Morton, just not Haven School.” Haven School was named in honor of Otis Erastus Haven. Ms. Marks said Mr. Haven came to Evanston in 1873 and served as the Superintendent of Schools for nine years. During his tenure he campaigned for the creation of a public high school. At that time, there was no publicly funded education beyond eighth grade. “Mr. Otis Erastus Haven’s legacy should not be disregarded,” the petition to retain Haven school’s name states. “The City of Evanston is over 150 years old, and it is vital that century-old traditions and history are maintained. We feel it is paramount that our children learn to appreciate the long-standing history of their hometown, and we strongly believe that we should keep the older pieces of our past intact while adding new ones to honor each generation.” As of Jan. 26, Ms. Marks said 236 persons have signed the petition. Nancy Doyle, a co-president of Haven’s PTA, said that for people who have gone through Haven “there’s a history. People are feeling there’s something being taken away from them.” She told Committee members people who have gone through Haven should be heard and represented. Ms. Marks said that she and other parents acknowledge Mayor Morton’s “highly impressive” contributions, adding that Haven parents had proposed to name the soon-to-be renovated library/media center at Haven in the mayor’s honor. At a meeting with Dr. Murphy and Ms. Erickson on Jan. 8, a number of Haven parents suggested naming the City’s civic center in honor of the mayor, a proposal Ms. Marks said she supports. Bringing the Community Together At the Jan. 27 organizational meeting, many Committee members said they thought renaming Haven School would be a great way to honor Mayor Morton. Ms. Rader suggested renaming the school after the mayor and naming the new library/media center after Mr. Haven. Ms. Erickson said the Board could consider the community’s history, but make it “relevant to us today.” While speaking highly of Mayor Morton, Hecky Powell said he would like to have historical information concerning Mr. Haven and whether he had family still living in the City. Lee Kulman, a teacher in District 65 for 27 years, said, “I owe her everything I know about teaching.” He asked, though, “Is this going to drive a wedge in the community or would it bring the community together?” He added, “I don’t want to see us get divided. Honor her respectfully and do not divide this community, because she has been about bringing this community together.” “I have mixed feelings about changing the name of a school. …You start aligning yourself with a name,” Mr. Peach said. “There may be better ways to honor her. We need to make the community comfortable with whatever we do.”

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...