Members of the Madison schools community have two opportunities to voice their opinions on whether Glendale Elementary School on the city’s east side should be renamed in honor of beloved educator and philanthropist Dr. Virginia Henderson: a special meeting of the district’s Operations Workgroup at 5 pm on January 13, and the regular Board of Education meeting at 6 on January 27. Both meetings will take place at the Doyle Administration Building, 545 West Dayton Street.
The Board of Education is expected to vote on the name change at the January 27 meeting.
Dr. Henderson, along with her husband Dr. Perry Henderson, were well-known philanthropists in Madison and through their generosity and volunteer work have impacted multiple generations of families throughout Dane County. Virginia Henderson passed away in April 2019 due to complications from pneumonia.
“Immediately after her (memorial) service, a number of people people started talking about, there has to be some way to continue her legacy, continue, the impact that she’s had on the community,” said Noble Wray, the former Madison police chief who is heading up the effort to name a school after Henderson.
A number of citizens brought the proposal to the Board of Education in early December, after which board president Gloria Reyes convened a 12-member committee and opened a 30-day public comment period.
Wray said he understands renaming a school is not a small thing.
“School name changes can be a very emotional issue for people,” he said in an interview Friday. “And so the art of renaming a school is if you can somehow capture the school’s key values and key principles that it has lived within the past, but also capture the inspirational future with the name change. So you don’t want to the school to lose out on what it was built on, and all of the great thing is that have happened. So if you could capture that and then look to the future in an inspirational way, that’s what they’re looking for.”
Wray said besides Henderson’s legacy as an educator and pillar of Madison’s Black community, there’s another compelling reason to put her name on one of Madison’s elementary schools.
“Out of over 30 elementary schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District, not one of them is named after a woman,” Wray said.
Those who are unable to attend either meeting can email the entire Board of Education at email@example.com.
Wray said he anticipates the name change being approved, but still encourages as many community voices to be heard as possible.
“We believe it’ll be a celebration when it’s all said and done,” Wray said.