Controversy quelling over name of southeast Raleigh's 'game-changing' new school

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Many southeast Raleighites lined up to blast the idea of alternative names to Southeast Raleigh Elementary.

Come the 2019-2020 school year, the chain link fences along Rock Quarry Road should be gone and a game-changing development is expected to open - bringing a new school, a YMCA, and an affordable housing complex.

But during the last several weeks, controversy emerged about what to call the school. On Monday night, the dust appeared to be settling.

"They were mad. They were fired up. Oh, that is hurtful," explained Maria Spaulding, chairperson of the board of directors for Southeast Raleigh Promise, the local nonprofit organization overseeing the project.

Spaulding described the uproar that arose in southeast Raleigh, when word spread that Wake County School leaders were considering some concerns in the community that naming the school Southeast Raleigh Elementary would bring a negative stigma - perhaps attaching the school to perceptions of crime or poverty.

"You don't want your community to be looked at as not being worthy to call the school that name," Spaulding said. "It's very insulting to tell you the truth."

So when the district's facilities committee began to consider naming the school Beacon Promise Elementary, after a proposed cross street through the complex, many southeast Raleighites lined up to blast the idea.

Community advocate Diana Powell was one of several residents who took her concerns to the school board last week.

"We have been in a fight for a long time now and we will continue to fight. One, because southeast Raleigh still matters to us," she told them.

Resident Bobby Allen added, "To run away from the name Southeast Raleigh Elementary school - why are we running away from it?"

Parent advocate Geraldine Alshamy made her case to the board as well.

"Southeast Raleigh's looking real different right now. It is not the same southeast Raleigh that it used to be," she said.

Keith Sutton represents southeast Raleigh on the school board.

"I never had a problem with Southeast Raleigh Elementary, never had a problem with it," he told ABC11.

In an interview at the site on Rock Quarry, Sutton told ABC11 he raised the concerns to the facilities committee over a stigma attached to the name after receiving several emails about it. He said he felt differently.

"I'm very proud of the (southeast Raleigh) community, proud resident," Sutton said. "But I think it's my job as the representative for the community that if I hear concerns on both sides for me to be open."

On Monday, Sutton said the best decision is for the school board to name the school Southeast Raleigh Elementary. And Spaulding agreed.

"I know that the name Southeast Raleigh Elementary school will be something we can look at with pride," she said.

The dustup about what to call the school hasn't dulled excitement about this project. YMCA of the Triangle is a major partner in what will bring this underserved community a new school, health care facility, full service Y, affordable housing complex and a grocery store.

The full school board could vote on the school name as early as next Tuesday.
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