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Monday, March 4, 2024
March 4, 2024

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Elementary school named after Tacoma’s founder may be changed amid racism concerns


TACOMA — An elementary school named after the founder of Tacoma may be renamed after community members raised concerns about his racist past.

Tacoma Public Schools announced last month the principal would lead the process to rename McCarver Elementary School, according to a news release. The school, at 2111 S. J St., is named after Morton M. McCarver.

McCarver was a businessman and promoter who made real estate investments across the U.S. McCarver, who was born in 1807, visited Eureka on Commencement Bay and realized the potential of the site for a city. He bought 163 acres and called the site Commencement City. McCarver later renamed it to Tacoma, the Salish name for Mount Rainier.

The school was built in 1924 and named after McCarver in 1926, according to The News Tribune archives. In 1968, the school was transformed into an elementary school.

Tacoma Public Schools received requests to consider renaming the school after community members expressed concerns about McCarver’s work in the Oregon and California Territorial Legislatures, where he proposed and supported laws to remove and exclude Black and mixed-race Americans from living in the territories.

Historic Tacoma posted on its Facebook in November about McCarver’s history.

“Kentucky-born McCarver was an ‘unabashed’ racist whose hatred of people of color came from his upbringing in the South. It’s important to note that McCarver was not just a supporter of those legislative efforts, he was the leader of them,” Historic Tacoma said in the post.

Superintendent Josh Garcia asked McCarver Elementary principal Stephany Wright to lead the process to consider renaming the school. Wright has surveyed McCarver staff and met with the school’s leadership team to select a committee, which includes staff, parents, students, alumni and community residents. The committee began meeting last week, according to Kathryn McCarthy, TPS assistant director of communications.

The committee will provide background information on McCarver and conduct outreach to gather input.

The Tacoma Public School policy to rename a facility requires the principal to prepare a written report that summarizes the school and/or community support or opposition to the proposed change. The report will be submitted to the superintendent.

If the superintendent is in agreement with the proposed change, he will present the recommendation to the school board for approval. The board will then accept or reject the proposed name. If approved, the superintendent or designee should notify appropriate federal, state and local offices, locations and persons, as necessary, according to the policy.

Two Tacoma schools were recently renamed because of racist concerns. Jason Lee Middle School was renamed Hilltop Heritage Middle School, and Woodrow Wilson High School was renamed Dr. Dolores Silas High School in 2021.