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East Anchorage High School to be renamed after Sen. Bettye Davis

East Anchorage High School Thunderbird.
East Anchorage High School Thunderbird.(KTUU)
Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 6:29 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage School Board Tuesday voted unanimously to change the name of East Anchorage High School to honor the late Sen. Bettye Davis.

The school will soon be called Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School.

It’s been a long process to find a way to honor Davis, who died in 2018. Davis was the first black woman elected to the legislature and also served three terms on the Anchorage School Board.

East was not the first choice school after an ASD naming committee surveyed members of the community. Some people were concerned about losing long-held traditions associated with the East name and the East High Thunderbirds.

But Celeste Hodge Growden, CEO of the Alaska Black Caucus, said there was confusion from the start about what they were trying to accomplish.

“I think many people thought that East High was going to be removed,” said Growden. “But we never intended on removing East High School. We always wanted to add Bettye Davis to the East High piece.”

Growden called that a great compromise. She said the goal of adding Davis’ name to the school is to get people talking about who she is and what she did.

“The end goal is to provide educational opportunities to our kids, to our families to begin the conversation of talking about contributions of people of color, which is so missing in this community," Growden said.

A spokeswoman for the district said it’s too soon to say exactly what the change will mean or how much it might cost.

Community members favored renaming Fairview Elementary School as well as an auditorium at East after Davis. But School Board President Elisa Vikalis said further research showed many in the Fairview community supported renaming their school after another Black pioneer in education.

There was also opposition to the East High name. Over a dozen people for and against the name change spoke in person and over the phone.

Though the name of the high school will change, the board made it clear in an amendment that the name East Anchorage High School and the Thunderbird mascot will still be used for sports and activities.

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