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School board rejects names for high school after Oregon Supreme Court Justice, former Oregon Symphony music director

North Clackamas School District officials have approved naming their newest elementary school after Beatrice Morrow Cannady so students will be inspired by her historic efforts as a "goodwill ambassador between races."

PHOTO COURTESY: NCSD - Beatrice Morrow CannadyThe first black woman to graduate from law school in Oregon, Cannady (1889-1974) was noted for her local civil rights activism in the early 20th century. Using her position as editor of the Advocate, Oregon's largest African-American newspaper, she launched numerous efforts to defend civil rights and challenge racial discrimination in its varied forms, including co-founding the Oregon chapter of the NAACP.

During her lifetime, she gave hundreds of lectures to high school and college students about the importance of better race relations. In 1932, she became the first black woman to run for state representative in Oregon.

Last year NCSD purchased the last approximately 2.4 acres it needed for the elementary-school property for $230,000. NCSD purchased 7.96 acres on Vogel Road for $1.58 million in 2008 using money from the prior bond.

Construction on the new $36.9 million Vogel Road elementary school is starting this month through August 2019. A groundbreaking ceremony is set for 3:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24. Parking is unavailable at the site, so if you want to attend the ceremony, you'll have to park by 3:15 p.m. at Scouters Mountain Elementary, 10811 S.E. 172nd Ave., Happy Valley. A bus will take you to the ceremony.

On May 10 the school board voted 5-2 to approve naming the new elementary school after Cannady, which was the name proposed by the School Naming Committee. Board members Trisha Claxton and Lee Merrick voted against the Cannady name.

Board members Rein Vaga and Tory McVay joined Claxton and Merrick in rejecting both of the names favored by the naming committee for the new high school. The committee had recommended Oregon Supreme Court Justice Adrienne Nelson, and offering former Oregon Symphony music director James DePreist (1936-2013) as an alternate.

Happy Valley officials said they "do not want this to be a moment that divides our community" in a press release prior to the naming decision.

"The City Council is unanimous in its request to name the new high school in Happy Valley 'Happy Valley High School,'" wrote Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer in a letter to North Clackamas School Board members.

Local historian Greg Hemer, a member of the naming committee, thought that Nelson High School best met the criteria that the school board set to find a local resident who was not a white man like the previous names chosen for NCSD schools.

"I didn't care about the politics," Hemer said. "I understand why citizens want Happy Valley High, but one of the things I tried to get across is that we name schools as institutions. Education has changed to be a bit more inspirational and not as institutional. People move around a lot more now."

Happy Valley officials suggested that naming the school after their city would not exclude students from unincorporated areas, as feared by naming-committee members.

"We have a strong community, one that is not bound by our city limits, but in the efforts through the years to build something together," the city's press release said.

Design work has begun to convert Rock Creek Middle School into NCSD's fourth high school at 14897 S.E. Parklane Drive, where construction is expected to run from June 2019 to June 2020 and cost about $74.6 million. Clackamas High School's East campus is being converted into a middle school as part of NCSD bond promises to the community when voters passed the $433 million bond in 2016.

For now the School Naming Committee has been disbanded and the school board has yet to decide on a new process for naming the high school.

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