LOCKPORT – Although the Board of Education showed little interest last week in spending money to build something to honor Lockport school desegregation pioneer Aaron Mossell, it will add material about him to the district’s curriculum.
The discussion followed up on the board’s decision in January to reject a request from a citizen group that North Park Junior High School be renamed to honor Mossell, an African-American businessman whose lobbying persuaded the district to close its blacks-only school in 1876 and integrate district classes.
That occurred 78 years before the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed school segregation in a 1954 decision.
Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley said the district’s social studies teachers will meet this summer on a curriculum development project, incorporating Mossell’s story into history classes.
“That’s one thing we can easily do,” Bradley said.
A possible time for learning about Mossell might be fourth grade, where the state mandates local history instruction.
But the board seemed reluctant to implement some of the ideas a district committee brainstormed while recommending against changing a school name to honor Mossell.
For example, a brick wall outside North Park with seating niches was envisioned. Some of the bricks were to carry inscriptions about Mossell’s accomplishments.
“Lots of costs involved with that,” said Trustee Marietta Schrader, who served on the renaming committee. “The district couldn’t absorb those costs.”
Schrader said the committee that considered renaming didn’t spend any time looking at the possible costs of its alternative ideas.
Something involving bricks was deemed appropriate because Mossell owned a brickyard and in fact sold bricks to the district to construct a school.
A proposal to name the new bus loop at North Park “Aaron Mossell Way,” to place outdoor benches in his honor or to install a large plaque about him someplace in the district each produced little enthusiasm from the board. However, Trustee Thomas Fiegl observed that signs for the bus loop are “not going to cost extravagant amounts of money.”
“I like to keep teachers on the payroll,” Trustee Diane Phelps said, adding that if anything tangible is done to commemorate Mossell, “there should be a fund-raiser.”
Curriculum, Schrader said, “is one of the most important vehicles for getting the message out.”
Bradley said the social studies teachers will be paid by the hour for the summer curriculum project.
Fiegl said a historical quilt featuring Mossell is being made and could be displayed at North Park.
“I think that’s awesome,” he said.
North Park is the only school in the district other than the high school that’s not named after a person. The name does not refer to a park, either, since Lockport has no North Park. But the school, which opened in 1940, is located near Outwater Park.