July 23, 2024

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Hammond continues elementary school rebranding in honor of city’s first black teacher | Education

6 min read
Hammond continues elementary school rebranding in honor of city’s first black teacher | Education

HAMMOND — The rebranding process of Annie Burns-Hicks Elementary School continued on Tuesday, introducing new colors and a mascot during the School City of Hammond board meeting.

The school was renamed in January from Maywood Elementary to honor Burns-Hicks, the school city’s first black teacher. The board voted to approve a new mascot, the Bulldogs, and new colors, light blue and white, during its meeting.

Burns-Hicks was an educator for 35 years in Hammond, all at the former Maywood Elementary. She also developed kindergarten curriculums for the school city. She currently lives in Indianapolis and is 84. 

Maxine Simmons, a member of the rebranding committee, said she was elated. 

“In the process of doing all this, it became the healing for three schools: Columbia, Lafayette, and the former Maywood,” Simmons said, referring to the merger that occurred in 2019.

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Le Terra Smith emphasized how the school tried to incorporate students in the decision by using surveys and having teachers discuss the change in their classrooms. She said the next phase is to design the mascot, create a school motto, draft a new mission and vision statement and purchase spirit wear. 

In addition, the school’s wings will be named after Columbia, Lafayette, Maywood and Annie Burns-Hicks.

The district will be holding events in the end of April that feature Burns-Hicks, including showing of a documentary titled “This Wall Must Come Down,” a documentary of Hicks’ life.

The board also discussed Hammond Arts and Performance Academy (HAPA), an arts program available to all students in the school city. HAPA has district-wide performances and hopes to continue expanding.

Following presentations, the board approved that they will receive $2,900 from the National Rifle Association state fund grant. The grant will go toward the JROTC program. Trustee Carlotta Blake-King voted in opposition. 

“I consider it blood money,” Blake-King said. She said she felt like the money could be found elsewhere. Trustee Cindy Murphy said there are not funds for everything. Blake-King said there are ESSER funds that could be used. 

Superintendent Scott Miller said he emailed the board when the grant was first considered to let them know it was a possibility and to express any objections there. Blake-King said she is not listened to, so she did not respond. 

Later on, several public commenters expressed their concern about a contract issue. The new teacher contract indicated they would work 7 1/2-hour days, when previously they were required to work six-hour days. Superintendent Miller said it would be addressed and fixed.

During his reports, Miller said that COVID-19 cases in students have remained low, despite going mask optional last month. He said cases have been in the single digits for the last six weeks. 

At the end of the meeting, before the superintendent report, Blake-King attempted to ask questions. Trustee Lisa Miller did not allow her to speak, instead saying it was time for the report.

Blake-King continued to speak, and a five-minute recess was held. Following the reports, Blake-King attempted to raise concerns again, but the meeting was adjourned. This has occurred at several past board meetings and some members of the public expressed their concern about Blake-King not being acknowledged. 

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