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In a Salute to Civil Rights Leader, City Education Officials Amend School's Name

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PATERSON, NJ – The Rev. Michael McDuffie was driving past Paterson’s former School 30 when something caught his eye.

“It said, ‘Martin Luther King Jr.,’” he recalled. “It didn’t say ‘Dr. Martin Luther King Jr..’”

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McDuffie looked into what he thought was an oversight and found out that the official name of the school did not include the civil rights leader’s academic title. That, he decided, needed to be changed.

And that’s exactly what the Paterson Board of Education did Wednesday night, voting to rename the school “The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School.”

Board President Christopher Irving said he thought it was important the school name reflected King’s full credentials. “The man gave his life so I could sit here as a 30-year-old man as president of this board,’’ said Irving, who is African-American.

Another board member, Corey Teague, pointed out that Paterson was one of the last places he visited before being assassinated. “We owe it to him to do right by him by all means,’’ said Teague.

The vote to change the name was not unanimous. Board member Jonathan Hodges said he fully supported the change in the school’s name. But he objected to the fact that the resolution proposing the change was presented to the board for a vote without prior notice. Hodges said resolutions are supposed to go through committee review and he feared that problematic resolutions could get pushed for approval if an exception were made for the school name change. On that issue, he said, Hodges voted against the resolution.

Irving said the proposal was rushed because the Paterson NAACP and the Paterson Pastor’s Workshop – Clergy on Fire both asked that the change be made before the upcoming holiday in honor of King’s birthday.   

In recognition of the name change, the NAACP and the Pastor’s Workshop have scheduled a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the school on Mon., Jan. 21 from 2-6 pm.

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