In light of the renewed spotlight on the racial divide in America, now is the time to memorialize the legacy of Dr. Derrick E. Nelson, the highly respected principal of Westfield High School, who died at the age of 44 donating his bone marrow to save the life of a teenager in France.

After his death on April 8, 2019, there was a strong call to action from students and his greater Westfield community to rename the high school in his honor. The Change.org petition, created by Jason Starkman, has received more than 28,000 signatures to date.

Dr. Nelson, an educator and American hero, dedicated his life to servant leadership. He served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army Reserve and achieved the rank of Chief Warrant Officer II. He was deployed for active duty in Afghanistan in 2013.

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During his years as Assistant Principal and Principal at WHS, Dr. Nelson formed unbreakable bonds with the whole of the student body. Students like this writer remember his unbridled enthusiasm at game days, his sense of humor (fearlessly singing and dancing in the hallways), and his respected leadership across the district. He was proud to be the first African American principal at Westfield High School.

According to Mayor Shelley Brindle’s Facebook, her new Human Relations Advisory Committee is acting to “bring about change in the race relations process we…desire in our community.” This writer is dedicated to working with the Mayor’s office, the town council, and the Board of Ed to make this necessary change.

Dr. Nelson said it best: “Whenever we can celebrate each other and our differences and not look at them as a negative but a positive—anytime we can do that is a wonderful, wonderful thing.”

We find ourselves now with the great opportunity to do something wonderful for our town in the memory of our great leader. Renaming Westfield High School to Dr. Derrick E. Nelson High School is another step toward recognizing the contributions of the diverse members of our community.

Best regards,

Caroline Barry
WHS Class of 2016