LOCKPORT – The Board of Education has begun the process of renaming North Park Junior High School in honor of desegregation pioneer Aaron A. Mossell.
The board read its new policy on naming or renaming school facilities, plaques and memorials at Wednesday’s meeting and appointed a committee that is expected to take about six months to conduct research and make a recommendation on the proposed North Park name change.
The seven-member committee will include North Park Assistant Principal James Snyder, Board of Education trustee Marietta Schrader, Parents Teachers and Students Association Vice President Julie Brounscheidel, student Brianna Gelnett, and community members David Knight, LaShonda McKenzie and former board member Allan Jack.
The policy needs to be read a second time before becoming official and a non-voting committee facilitator still needs to be named. Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley said the district will be able to bring in a facilitator who specializes in overseeing committees, at no cost to the district. “We need to put together a schedule, find a facilitator and set the whole thing rolling,” Bradley said.
North Park, which opened in 1940 as an elementary school on Passaic Avenue, and Lockport High School are the only schools in the district not named after an individual.
Mossell was a businessman whose brick factory supplied the building materials for one of Lockport’s schools across the street from his home on High Street. In 1871, he was dismayed when his children were denied the right to attend classes there.
Within five years, the School Board had voted to close the “separate but equal” school for black children on South Street, and its students were admitted to the previously all-white public schools. That was 78 years before the Supreme Court desegregated schools in the United States.
The Niagara County Historical Society “will tell you that North Park was built on the site of Mr. Mossell’s [second] brick factory,” Kinyon said last year when a community group approached the board about renaming the school.
Mossell was honored in 2002 with an inscribed brick on the Lockport Walk of Fame at Fountain Park. The idea of naming a school for him began with the late Michael J. Pullano, a social studies and special-education teacher at North Park and the high school.