Rochester’s Century HS Naming War Started 25 Years Ago This Week
March 9, 1996 was the Saturday that brought trouble down on Rochester like many hadn't seen before. It was the day KROC News announced the Rochester Public Schools were looking for nominations for names for what became Century High School.
It started nicely enough...here's how the news was likely read that morning...
If you'd like to be involved in the naming of the new high school, to be located in Northeast Rochester, you have until the close of business March 29, 1996 to get your nomination into the School District committee. The committee will then pass on their choice of name to the Rochester School Board.
Adults will not select a new fight song, the new mascot, or new school colors. Students will be voting on those issues.
So the names came in by the ton, over 200 in all. The School District committee was made up of 80 people, which seems enormously large for a committee. Perhaps this is what led to it being a "contentious process" according to Wikipedia.
It came down to two names: Eleanor Roosevelt and Century.
Century high school was to honor the property the high school stands on, which had been owned by the Cassidy family for over 100 years. Eleanor Roosevelt, obviously, is the former First Lady of the United States of America.
Rochester had always been considered a politically conservative town, so it wasn't likely Eleanor Roosevelt would get approval by the School Board. Still there was hope and they believed they had the numbers to push ER over the top.
Polls were done, radio shows talked, people called in, strongly worded letters were written to the Rochester Post Bulletin on both sides. Claims mostly boiled down to sexism and liberal nonsense.
It was before Social Media, so it wasn't hate filled rants, name calling, and wild accusations, but it was a pretty heated topic. I was working nights on KROC-FM and I was always at John Marshall HS as a Key Club Advisor. Parents and students alike had opinions!
If you didn't like controversy, you would have just not mentioned the new school. Or maybe even pretend you didn't know about it. "New school name? I didn't even know they were building a .... what'd you call it? A school?"
In the end, and after a 45 minute debate, it was settled. With a 4-3 vote, the School Board chose Century for the new high school's name.
Century High School opened in 1997 and by now, you'd think it's been long enough to forget the naming issue, but as names are considered for the latest Rochester schools being built, you'll find two things last a long time; memories and grudges.
Do you remember those days? Do you feel I've been accurate in capturing the feeling of the time? If not, please, click the link and tell me what you remember.
As always, if you have a comment, complaint, or concern about something I wrote here, please let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
PS - That time a Century High School teacher was honored!
Speaking of schools in Minnesota, how many of these did you know?