Sequoia has beaten out second-place Ohlone and six other alternatives for the chance to replace the name of Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, according to the results of a school-wide vote.
Jefferson Elementary School principal Betty Delaney reportedly described the vote as a “very close count.”
The vote on the possible name change of the Ada Street school was proposed by parents and community activists who were concerned that the Berkeley school was named for a man who held slaves on his 18th century Virginia plantation. The issue has sparked controversy in Berkeley, with Jefferson supporters arguing that the nation’s third president should continue to be honored because of his authorship of the Declaration of Independence and the purchase of the vast Louisiana Territory from France, paving the way to make America an ocean-to-ocean empire.
The first round of voting focused on choosing an alternative name to Jefferson. Sequoia won the first round over the names of Ohlone, Cesar Chavez, Ralph Bunche, Sojourner Truth, Florence McDonald (a former city councilmember), Peace, and Rose.
A second round of voting by Jefferson Elementary parents, students, and staff—this one to decide whether to keep the Jefferson name or replace it with Sequoia —will be held during the week of May 23, with results expected to be reported shortly afterward.
According to Berkeley Unified School District Public Information Office Mark Coplan, if the Jefferson Elementary community chooses Sequoia over Thomas Jefferson, the name change will most likely go to the BUSD Board for consideration in June.
The Jefferson Elementary administration has planned a school community meeting for May 17, 6-8 p.m., to discuss the procedures for the final vote.