Community opposition overturns unanimous decision to rename North Davis Elementary
The proposal to rename North Davis Elementary School in honor of Dr. Mary Ellen Dolcini has been tabled to allow for more discussion. On Dec. 20, after facing opposition from the community, the school board called for the formation of a committee to explore other ways of celebrating Dolcini’s contributions.
Dolcini held many administrative positions in the Davis Joint Unified School District, serving as assistant superintendent, principal of the then-East Davis School and North Davis Elementary School, which she successfully advocated to become a full inclusion site. The idea of renaming North Davis Elementary School emerged after Dolcini’s passing in April 2018.
“[Dolcini] was formative in the activity at the school, and we felt that it’d be an appropriate honoring of her,” said Janice Bridge, an organizer of the proposal and former school board trustee. “We also wanted the students in Davis to have some connection with her.”
Earlier, on Oct. 23, the Davis branch of the American Association of University Women hosted a public forum for discussion of the renaming, which was mostly in support of the name change. Bridge noted the abrupt shift in support, given the initial positive responses to the renaming.
“There was no conflict and no one from the school raised any objections whatsoever,” Bridge said.
The school board unanimously voted for the name change on Dec. 6. Between that initial meeting and the Board of Education Meeting on Dec. 20 — in which the renaming appeared on the Consent Calendar — opposition from parents and community members arose.
Parents took to posting on online forums such as NextDoor, emailing the BOE and attending school board meetings to voice their concerns over the necessity of the change and the anticipated costs.
“We absolutely want to recognize what Dr. Dolcini has done for the school and for the city, but there are many other ways to recognize her contribution without something as dramatic as changing the school name,” said Loris Degioanni, a North Davis parent.
Tricia Tomiyoshi-Marsom, another North Davis parent who attended the Dec. 20 meeting, expressed feeling left out of the decision-making process.
“Certainly the people who are the biggest stakeholders are the parents and teachers and staff members who work and attend North Davis elementary everyday,” Tomiyoshi-Marsom said. “So we would hope that our opinions would be taken into consideration before a move like that was ever even approved, but that was part of the source of frustration.”
With much of the opposition rooted in concern over the cost of a name change, the initial proposal group consulted an IT specialist. They concluded that if the change were made over time, the overall cost would not increase.
“Electronic media is what they use today,” Bridge said. “We don’t have to ditch whole bales of paper with the logo on it, you just make a major change to the logo.”
Aside from concerns over digitally altering the school’s logo, the other major cost would have been altering the various physical badges bearing the North Davis name.
“North Davis school has a large number of ceramic plaques and installations throughout the campus that have been done over time with involving a local ceramic artist,” Bridge said. “We would have applied for grants to pay for that.”
Despite accounting for such costs, parents were still dissatisfied with the decision.
“Any amount of funding that would be diverted to a name change or signage that would have benefited the teachers and the students was also a sore point for some members of our community,” Tomiyoshi-Marsom said.
On Dec. 20, trustee Alan Fernandes proposed the formation of a committee that will return later with a recommendation. The meetings will be public and hosted by board-appointed representatives.
While the name change is technically still in contention, Bridge sees it as highly unlikely given the circumstances.
“We’re not interested in engaging in that kind of battle, nor would [Dolcini] have been interested in that,” Bridge said.
Ongoing discussions include implementing a Mary Dolcini Day celebrated by the District, a statue of her likeness or naming the new multipurpose room at North Davis after Dolcini. The proposal group hopes that Dolcini can be celebrated by all — not just North Davis students — which may not be fulfilled by only renaming the multipurpose room.
“It really opens up possibilities where we can come to a compromise,” Tomiyoshi-Marsom said. “Hopefully with this committee they’ll be able to hear other opinions and make a thoughtful decision that will make [all] sides happy.”
Written by: Renee Hoh — firstname.lastname@example.org