News

Fletcher Middle School honors new namesake

Ellen Fletcher's daughter shares her mother's story: 'She was an immigrant'

Terry Fletcher, center, Ellen Fletcher's daughter, cuts a ceremonial ribbon to re-dedicate the school with staff, district administrators, students and parents watching. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Ellen Fletcher was an immigrant and a refugee, a Holocaust survivor, a daughter and a mother, a fierce bicycle advocate and Palo Alto City Council member.

And now, she is a Palo Alto school's namesake. Ellen Fletcher Middle School celebrated the school's new name on Monday, which would have been Fletcher's 90th birthday.

Students, staff and parents filed into the school's gym — passing handwritten posters in hallways urging students to walk or bike to school on Monday — to honor Fletcher's legacy.

Fletcher's daughter, Terry, cut a ceremonial red ribbon to officially rededicate the school, which the school district renamed this year along with Frank Greene Middle School to replace namesakes who were leaders in the eugenics movement.

Terry Fletcher, a retired teacher who grew up in Palo Alto, told the story of her mother, who was born to Jewish parents in 1928 in Berlin, Germany. Hitler came to power when she was about 5 years old, putting in place discriminatory laws against Jews, Terry said. As a Jew, her mother wasn't allowed to attend public school and faced bullying from non-Jewish children.

Because Fletcher's father was from Poland, she was not considered a German citizen under laws at the time and was deported at 9 years old to Poland, where she knew no one, her daughter said. A week after she turned 10 years old, she fled the Holocaust as part of the Kindertransport, which provided Jewish children with safe passage to England. She was one of nearly 10,000 children who left Nazi Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia alone, without their families, at the time, according to The Kindertransport Association.

Imagine "being 7-and-a-half years old, being put on an airplane or being put on a train, being sent to a country where you don't speak the language — that was my fate," Ralph Samuel, who chairs The Kindertransport Association's Northern California chapter, told the audience on Monday. "That's what happened to me, and it happened to Ellen Fletcher, too."

(Fletcher met Samuel in 1991 and became involved with the organization, which connected her with other Kindertransport survivors.)

After World War II ended, Fletcher reunited with her mother in New York City, her daughter said. She obtained her high school and college degrees and moved to Palo Alto in 1958 with her husband, an electronics engineer.

In Palo Alto, Fletcher's civic advocacy was born. She had become an avid cyclist during her time in England and worried about the lack of bike lanes in Palo Alto at the time, especially for children biking to school. She volunteered with the Fairmeadow Elementary School PTA, joined the school's bike-safety committee and became active politically. She ran and won a seat on the City Council in 1977, campaigning with a large "Fletcher for City Council" sign attached to the back of her bicycle.

Fletcher lobbied for the addition of bike lanes and bike bridges throughout Palo Alto and a bike boulevard that's now named after her as well as laws to require large businesses to provide bicycle parking and reimbursement for city employees using bikes as transportation while on city business, her daughter said — all pioneering changes at the time.

Fletcher died in 2012 after a battle with lung cancer.

In a Q&A section of Monday's event, students asked serious questions about Kristallnacht (when Germans destroyed synagogues, Jewish homes and schools, and arrested and killed Jews in 1938), post-traumatic stress disorder and survivors' guilt.

Most important about Fletcher's story, her daughter said, is to remember where she came from.

"She was an immigrant and she was a refugee, but look at what she did for Palo Alto. Some people think immigrants and refugees are people who are going to come in and take things from us but I think we should remember that immigrants and refugees are people who can come and contribute to our community," Terry Fletcher said.

Her mother left Palo Alto, and now the middle school, a legacy of advocacy. She taught her daughter the lesson that "if someone is being mistreated, if someone is being left out, you need to stick up for them — and not just in a personal way but looking at the world as well," Terry Fletcher said.

In honor of the renaming, the Fletcher PTA donated a new bike repair station and skateboard rack in response to student requests. The school library also has a display of books on Fletcher and the Kindertransport.

On Monday, the bike racks at the front of the Arastradero Road campus were full.

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Comments

17 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2018 at 11:00 am

>> "She was an immigrant and she was a refugee, but look at what she did for Palo Alto. Some people think immigrants and refugees are people who are going to come in and take things from us but I think we should remember that immigrants and refugees are people who can come and contribute to our community," Terry Fletcher said.

Indeed.

Obviously much has been written about the Kindertransport, but, for a quick followup, here is the Wikipedia link: Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by rhody
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2018 at 11:39 am

rhody is a registered user.

Which schools were renamed? OR where are the newly renamed schools located?


15 people like this
Posted by Old Time PA Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 4, 2018 at 12:13 pm

Why are all of these schools being renamed?

Were the original namesakes bad guys?

This is becoming like ballparks & football stadiums except that most of them are named after corporations.


6 people like this
Posted by to Rhody
a resident of Nixon School
on Dec 4, 2018 at 1:17 pm

Rhody-
It looks like Fletcher is the new name for Terman Middle School on Arastradero.


16 people like this
Posted by skeptic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2018 at 1:53 pm

Incredible, the politically motivated and very selective demonization of white guys who made a difference. The demonization is so acute that *even in this news article*, the previous name of the school isn't mentioned; one has to click to another article to find out the name of that guy whose name now is apparently unmentionable, even in a news article.

It's politically motivated; the new names refer to people in victim groups as defined by the modern Left.

Let's erase all mention of "Stanford" and "[George] Washington" as well, while we're at it.


1 person likes this
Posted by Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 4, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Alum is a registered user.

Time to rehash this discussion... Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2018 at 3:40 pm

Why didn't they have Seating for the Ceremony? People sitting on the floor??


5 people like this
Posted by Former Jordan parent
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Dec 4, 2018 at 4:10 pm

My daughter was in Jordan when Terman reopened and used the school site next door. For a while the two schools were sharing the playing field, the swimming pool and probably a few other facilities. There was a friendly rivalry, but the two student bodies seemed to have an affinity as well as an optimism for their two futures as opposed to the unknown JLS who became a common "enemy" for sports and various other middle school cultures.

It seems strange now looking back that both of these schools have had their identities ripped out and a new forced identity taking the place of the happy memories of those middle school times for so many alum.

Those excited new Terman Tigers in their yellow and black school colors happily running around Jordan for PE while the Jordan once called Dolphins enjoyed sharing their campus are now just wiped away. As someone above said, the bad guy names are no longer PC and all that will be remembered of both individuals is that they were so awful to be completely forgotten by everyone even for the good things that they did.

So very sad.


21 people like this
Posted by Let's behave like adults, please.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 4, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Let's behave like adults, please. is a registered user.

Ellen was forced to adjust to terrible things as a very young child. RAther than school name change, she faced: fascism, racism, holocaust, separation from family and community. Let's keep this in perspective, please.

Her early story is inspiring. What amazes me is the loving and positive person she became after that awful early experience.

She became as adult who served on our City Council and worked with her community to make sure children were accommodated on our streets. She always maintained a demeanor of grace and and good will. She was unerringly polite--even when others were not. She was a role model and friend.

In her eighties, as she was battling lung cancer, she still rode her bicycle for transportation around town. She had a little electric boost on her bike. She loved to say, "It's just not that hard."

May her memory be a blessing.


10 people like this
Posted by The Name Game
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2018 at 5:17 pm

> Were the original namesakes bad guys?

More along the lines of inappropriate namesakes for a modern day school. It should be noted that their actions and/or beliefs were reflective of another time in history.

As society and local communities become even more ethnically diverse, chances are many schools will be renamed in the future as certain namesakes will be further scrutinized for political correctness. Of course any changes will be dependent on the location of the school and based on community sensitivities.


17 people like this
Posted by
a resident of Escondido School
on Dec 4, 2018 at 7:03 pm

is a registered user.

Thank you, Elena, for such thoughtful coverage of the re-dedication ceremony at Fletcher Middle School. Real stories about resilience in the face of adversity, as shared by Ellen's daughter Terry Fletcher shared, are worth hearing, especially for middle school students. And to use what would have been Ellen's 90th birthday to celebrate the contributions she made to our community as a survivor is a magnificent way to celebrate the renaming of the school. Thank you to the PAUSD for the thoughtful and open process of reflecting on the inappropriate choices made in the past that elevated advocates of eugenics as role models, and to the school board for hearing from all sides and making a thoughtful decision. And thank you to Terman staff and parents for marking the rededication in such an informative and engaging way.


3 people like this
Posted by Duveneck parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 4, 2018 at 10:42 pm

Thank you to the resident of Escondito school for your comments. I agree that it is meaningful for our middle schoolers to learn the stories and lessons from the lives of Ellen Fletcher and Frank Greene.


11 people like this
Posted by Jordan Grad 1970
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2018 at 3:00 am

Ellen Fletcher was a city councilwoman who served the city and made it more bicycle friendly. She is more than deserving of having a middle school named after her; no need to play the victim card.

Remind me what Frank Greene did for Palo Alto or its school system? He didn't even live here.

Frederick Terman's c.v. speaks for itself, but he was white and Frank Greene was black. F. Terman's legacy will live on long after Frank Greene's non-legacy has faded into obscurity.

"Incredible, the politically motivated and very selective demonization of white guys who made a difference."

You're kinder than I am. I call it flat-out racism.

Reverse racism is still racism.


1 person likes this
Posted by Blu
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 5, 2018 at 7:36 am

Can’t wait for my child to wear a Jordan Middle School shirt....


6 people like this
Posted by School Names Are a Reflection of the Community
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 5, 2018 at 8:06 am

> He didn't even live here.

Is actual residency a key requisite for naming a school? There are a lot of schools around the country named after JFK and MLK.

In time, additional school names will probably be changed as the more 'progressive' school districts strive to dilute or diminish the remembrances of certain individuals who are perceived to have made a 'negative' contribution to their local history or national history as a whole.

It's very subjective...as is the writing of history itself.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2018 at 9:17 am

Posted by skeptic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> Incredible, the politically motivated and very selective demonization of white guys who made a difference.

I figured that this monster would rear its ugly head yet again. Read this July/August 2000 Stanford Magazine article regarding Lewis Terman:

Web Link

How fitting that Ellen Fletcher, victim and survivor of the holocaust, be honored. She contributed so much to Palo Alto.

>> Let's erase all mention of "Stanford" and "[George] Washington" as well, while we're at it.

George Washington is worth an entire book. I suggest Ron Chernow's 2010 biography. Stanford University, -must we point it out again?!??- is named after Leland Stanford -Junior-, who died in 1884 at age 15 of typhoid.


13 people like this
Posted by School Names Are a Reflection of the Community
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 5, 2018 at 9:39 am

> Read this July/August 2000 Stanford Magazine article regarding Lewis Terman:

But should Fred Terman/engineer have lost his namesake JH school due to the actions and beliefs of his father/eugenics proponent?

Where do we draw the line on name conflicts...

(1) In terms of descendents, two generations or all the way back to feasible DNA test results?

(2) And in the event a proposed school name shares a commonality with another historical figure, do we also hold that against an individual?

Perhaps it's best not name a school after anybody. Just stick with geographic references.









1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2018 at 10:44 am

Posted by School Names Are a Reflection of the Community, a resident of Stanford

>> But should Fred Terman/engineer have lost his namesake JH school due to the actions and beliefs of his father/eugenics proponent?

I, for one, would not object to a new middle school named after Frederick Terman. [Unfortunately, when "Terman" was revived, "they" (I'm not sure who the real decider(s) was/were) insisted on keep "Lewis" in the name.] If enrollment continues to grow, I would rather have a new middle school (sure, you can name your middle school "Fred") than grow the current three. I would rather name schools after trees, in keeping with "Palo Alto", but, obviously, not enough people agree with me. ;-)

>> Perhaps it's best not name a school after anybody. Just stick with geographic references.

Perhaps we could name a school "Quercus Agrifolia"? Web Link)


9 people like this
Posted by Jordan Grad 1970
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2018 at 12:36 pm

"Is actual residency a key requisite for naming a school? There are a lot of schools around the country named after JFK and MLK."

Is being white a valid reason to exclude Frederick Terman? Apparently this is what happened here.

To equate Frank Greene with JFK or MLK is absurd. JFK actually lived here for a short time. Today Palo Alto would negate the legacy of JFK because he was white.

"Read this July/August 2000 Stanford Magazine article regarding Lewis Terman"

Sorry, I'm not taking your red herring. Lewis Terman is not the subject of this debate and was never considered to replace the former namesakes. Lewis was a different person than his son who did not share his father's beliefs.

"But should Fred Terman/engineer have lost his namesake JH school due to the actions and beliefs of his father/eugenics proponent?"

Well of course he should. How else are we going to teach our children that guilt by heritage and racism in the name of political correctness are virtues? Maybe schools should purge JFK not only because he was white but because his father, Joe Kennedy, was a shady character.

Reverse racism is still racism.


2 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2018 at 12:49 pm

The other schools with person-names are named for people who lived in the school district: Briones, Hays, Hoover, Nixon (Lucille, not Richard), Gunn, JLS (Stanford), and formerly Terman (now Fletcher) and Jordan. I think all others recently proposed for school names also lived in Palo Alto. I think I read that Greene lived in Sunnyvale and graduated from Santa Clara Univ. and was a trustee there as well.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2018 at 1:20 pm

Posted by Jordan Grad 1970, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> Is being white a valid reason to exclude Frederick Terman? Apparently this is what happened here.

>> Reverse racism is still racism.

Ellen Fletcher was white. Obviously, it didn't disqualify her.


17 people like this
Posted by PA Native American
a resident of Ohlone School
on Dec 5, 2018 at 1:36 pm

Why isn't Ohlone School named after a specific Native American individual?

This is very demeaning. It would be like naming Greene Middle School...African-American Middle School. How generic.

Palo Alto is still a non-compliance politically correct city. Shameful.


15 people like this
Posted by Yes...Rename Ohlone School
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 5, 2018 at 6:56 pm

> Why isn't Ohlone School named after a specific Native American individual?

There should be one...in honor of a visionary tribal elder who warned his people of the impending over-development of Palo Alto.


2 people like this
Posted by South Gate
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 6, 2018 at 10:33 am

South Gate is a registered user.

@PA Native American -
When the Renaming Schools committee did their work, they investigated every school name in our district. They were in touch with the Ohlone tribe and they work together to make sure to incorporate lessons of the Ohlone people into their school work. The Ohlone are aware and supportive of the namesake.
I'm sure Ohlone school can always reflect and do more to be inclusive and respectful, but the school is named in honor of the Ohlone people and they are on board. Let's not create issues where there aren't any. We have enough real issues to deal with.


5 people like this
Posted by Let's honor an illegal or two
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 6, 2018 at 11:12 am

Let's rename a school for Victorina Morales or Sandra Diaz.

Victorina's a Guatamalan who has received a Certificate of Award from the White House, along with a Secret Service logo'd American Flag pin. She also has been given tips from the President (usually 50 or 100 dollars.)

She clean's Donald Trump's bathrooms.

For years.

And they're as illegal as they can be.

Purchased fake ID's in New Jersey.

Trump's company told them how to get fake documents and hides their status.

Their place in history? They teach our children about the hypocrisy of the "Buy American, Hire American" phony nationalists that have fooled so many truly dumb Americans to believe their lies.

That's a great lesson for our children.

Just a suggestion. Also something to consider when you look back a couple generations. Their story: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Jordan Grad 1970
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2018 at 12:29 pm

"Why isn't Ohlone School named after a specific Native American individual?

This is very demeaning. It would be like naming Greene Middle School...African-American Middle School. How generic.

Palo Alto is still a non-compliance politically correct city. Shameful."

Do you have a specific person to suggest amongst your whining?


8 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2018 at 1:47 pm

@Southgate wrote about Ohlone as a school name: "Let's not create issues where there aren't any. We have enough real issues to deal with."

The irony there is pretty rich, after the fiasco / distraction of a two year renaming process. Changing middle school names made a small group of ideologues feel good about themselves - it did nothing to change the lives of low-income students and did nothing to improve the low-income achievement gap that has been a feature of Palo Alto for many years.

So yeah, I agree, let's focus on the real issues. Let's start by acknowledging that all the "equity" virtue-signalling that goes on does nothing for kids with academic needs. "Focus on real issues" means figuring out how to do a better job teaching low-income students.


10 people like this
Posted by CA Cultural Anthropologist
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 6, 2018 at 1:58 pm

> Let's honor an illegal or two

I believe that one is required to have either a direct or indirect connection to Palo Alto in order to qualify for a school name...not that there aren't any potential candidates for this honor.

>> Do you have a specific person to suggest amongst your whining?

Most of the Muwekma/Ohlone tribe has married into Spanish and Mexican families. It would be difficult to source an original indigenous Muwekma ancestral individual but perhaps one can be sourced upon further research. Until then, we will have to run with a generic counterpart.

Meanwhile, the PA schools named after Caucasian dignitaries will continue to bear the name of an actual person.


2 people like this
Posted by Blu
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 6, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Like I said ...I can’t wait for my kids to go to middle school and they will be wearing their Jordan middle school shirts


7 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 6, 2018 at 8:30 pm

I feel sorry we weren’t able to honor Yamamoto of Palo Alto. Made some sense.


2 people like this
Posted by Unfortunately
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Dec 7, 2018 at 10:36 am

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 7, 2018 at 10:52 am

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Unfortunately
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Dec 7, 2018 at 11:26 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 7, 2018 at 12:31 pm

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Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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