The woman known as the "mother of Palo Alto schools," a Japanese-American Palo Altan who fought and died during World War II and an early Silicon Valley pioneer are among the people on a working list of new names for Jordan and Terman middle schools.
The Palo Alto school district's Recommending School Names Advisory Committee, formed last fall after the school board voted last year to rename the two schools due to their namesakes' advocacy of eugenics, has winnowed down more than 1,500 name suggestions from the community to a final list of seven people and two geographic names. The members discussed the names at a meeting Tuesday night.
Names were solicited through an online and written survey. Committee members did not submit ideas to avoid conflict of interest.
The committee eliminated duplicates and suggestions for Lewis Terman or David Starr Jordan; applied criteria from a board policy on naming facilities and voted on top names to narrow down the list. Other rationale included a strong Palo Alto connection, "inspirational value" for a middle school name and values such as innovation, integrity and inclusion.
The school board can name school facilities after people, living or dead, and entities that have made "outstanding contributions, including financial contributions, to the school community"; contributions of statewide, national or global significance; or after the geographic area in which the school or building is located, the policy states.
The tentative finalists and brief biographical information about them are below. There is also another name still under consideration by the committee.
Ellen Fletcher: Ellen Fletcher is a former Palo Alto City Councilwoman whose environmental advocacy helped put Palo Alto on the map as a bike-friendly city. She lobbied persistently for biking improvements as a volunteer in the school district and as a council member, according to a Palo Alto Weekly article. In 2002, the City Council officially named Bryant Street as the "Ellen Fletcher Bicycle Boulevard." Fletcher died in 2012.
Frank Greene: Frank Greene was a Silicon Valley pioneer who, as one of the first black technologists in the local industry, focused advocacy efforts on promoting minorities and women. Greene developed high-speed semiconductor computer-memory systems in the 1960s, started two technology companies and later founded a venture firm with a special focus on minority- and female-headed firms, according to a Palo Alto Weekly article. He was inducted into the Silicon Valley Hall of Fame in 2001. He died in 2009.
William Hewlett: William Hewlett co-founded the Hewlett-Packard Company with David Packard in a Palo Alto garage in 1939. The company's first commercially viable product was the audio oscillator, but throughout its history, HP has developed and manufactured a vast array of high tech products. Hewlett, a Stanford University engineering graduate, founded the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which is among the largest private charitable foundations in the United States. Hedied in 2001.
Edith Johnson: Edith Johnson is considered Palo Alto's first female doctor. She opened a medical practice from an office in her family's home on Hawthorne Avenue in 1907, according to a Weekly article. The city park across the street was named in her honor when it was completed in 1986.
Fred Yamamoto: Fred Yamamoto, who graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1936, was interned in Santa Anita in southern California and then Heart Mountain in Wyoming during World War II. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and later received awards for his service, including the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster and Silver Star, according to the Palo Alto Historical Association. He died in combat in France in 1944.
Anna Zschokke: Anna Zschokke is considered one of Palo Alto's first residents and the founder of the local school system. A widowed German immigrant and mother of three, she moved to Palo Alto in the 19th century, according to PaloAltoHistory.org, and later opened a schoolhouse. A 2009 City Council resolution to name a plaza after Zschokke described her as "a Palo Alto pioneer and an active supporter of many civic and cultural projects."
The geographic names tentatively proposed for each school are Adobe Creek Middle School for Terman and Redwood Grove Middle School for Jordan.
Committee members are continuing to research the proposed names in the hopes of uncovering anything that could cause caution or concern. The committee is expected to present final recommendations to the school board in March.
The board is aiming to have both schools renamed by the start of the next school year. A former committee estimated the one-time cost of renaming at about $50,000.