Name changes to be considered

An ad hoc committee is proposing the school being built for students in grades 3-5 in Cottage Grove be named Granite Ridge Intermediate School – and then suggested name changes for most other schools in the district.

The presentation was made Wednesday, July 8, when the Monona Grove School board gathered.

Katy Byrnes Kaiser, director of communications and community engagement, and a committee member, said the name was not a unanimous selection by the committee, but it was chosen by 27.3 percent of survey respondents when presented with a slate of options.

“This name is a nod to our state rock and the elevations of the new school site,” she said.

In a survey of district residents, Byrnes Kaiser said 82.6 percent of respondents favored grade level identifiers in the school names.

The committee was also tasked with reviewing the names of other school properties.

Other school building name change recommended include:

– Taylor Prairie School would be renamed Taylor Prairie Early Learning Center.

– Cottage Grove School would be renamed Woodside Primary School.

– Glacial Drumlin School would be renamed Monona Grove Middle School.

– Winnequah School would be renamed Monona Elementary School.

“When the new school opens, this school (Glacial Drumlin School) will be a true middle school,” Byrnes Kaiser said. “As middle school is the first time students from our communities are combined, a name that reflects and welcomes both communities will have a unifying effect. This name will also act as a bridge for students and families as they prepare to enter Monona Grove High School.”

Board member Susan Manning said the name Cottage Grove School goes back to 1910. She questioned eliminating that connection to history.

“The majority of survey respondents supported changing the name, and given the amount of confusion from residents and visitors about this name, the committee unanimously recommends changing the name,” Byrnes Kaiser said.

Board member Peter Sobol said if one of the committee’s intentions in changing Cottage Grove School’s name is to eliminate a school identifying with a particular community, changing Winnequah School to Monona Elementary School is a clear contradiction of that line of reasoning.

Board member Susan Fox said while she could go along with the change to Taylor Prairie School, she wanted more community input on the changes to Cottage Grove School, Winnequah School and Glacial Drumlin School. Speaking about the Winnequah School name, Fox said she would like input from the Ho-Chunk Nation, adding that another Ho-Chunk name might be more appropriate considering the historical significance of the site to the tribe.

Committee member Jason Johnson said changing the name of Winnequah was a “moral imperative.”

Byrnes Kaiser said the name Winnequah is a combination of the words Winnebago and squaw, which itself has racist origins.

“Squaw is not a native word; it was created by colonizers,” she said. “The word Winnebago is not the way that the indigenous people living in this area referred to themselves.”

She said the mission of the district and its focus on equity and social responsibility demands the name be changed.

“Despite decades of educational reform and federal mandates, the United States continues to see growing inequities among students,” she said. “The administration and staff of the Monona Grove School District have been working for several years to disrupt the systems in place that allow these inequities to persist in our own schools.”

If the board vetoes this recommendation, the committee urges the board to immediately create another ad hoc committee to do further review.

Superintendent Dan Olson said the recommendations would be on the Aug. 12 board agenda, and the board can decide then what direction to take on the committee recommendations.

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