A new elementary school in Prince George’s County was given a name Thursday night.
The Prince George’s County Board of Education agreed to follow Schools Chief Kevin M. Maxwell’s recommendation and name the school in honor of a former superintendent who served during the early 1990s, a period marked by financial crisis, low student test scores and tensions over court-ordered busing.
The board voted unanimously that the school, which has been referred to the New Hyattsville Area Elementary School, be named the Edward M. Felegy Elementary School.
School Board Member Amber Waller (District 3), who represents the Hyattsville area, said she was pleased to vote for the school name.
“He believed in educating the whole child,” Waller said. “I’m grateful for the legacy that he’s left.”
Felegy, who began his career as a teacher at Seat Pleasant Elementary School in Capitol Heights, died on March 30. He moved through the ranks of the school system and in 1991 was selected as superintendent. His time was marked with some controversy, including a call for his resignation by then-County Executive Parris Glendening in 1993. Felegy is remembered for recruiting minority educators, making unpopular spending cuts to avoid teacher layoffs and working to protect arts education programs. He served until his retirement in 1995.
The school will join the more than 55 schools named in honor of individuals, including four presidents (Barack Obama, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Andrew Jackson and James Madison), literary figures (Robert Frost and Francis Scott Key) and Tuskegee Airmen (Charles H. Flowers and Henry A. Wise Jr.).
An advisory committee proposed three names for the new school: Nicholson Street Elementary School, Edward M. Felegy Elementary School and Dr. Maya Angelou Elementary School.
Nicholson Street was the top vote-getter on the advisory committee, followed by Edward M. Felegy. One vote separated the two. Maxwell did not explain specifically why he chose to recommend Felegy instead of Nicholson Street as a name, but he wrote to the school board that he “believes that the naming of Edward M. Felegy Elementary School will serve to honor the contributions and services of a distinguished educator for over 37 years to the Prince George’s County School System.”
The New Hyattsville Area Elementary School is one of the first schools in the county to be named since the board revised its naming policy to be absolutely clear about who can receive the honor of a school building named after him or her.
Under the board’s previous policy, a subcommittee of the school board recommended names to the full board. The new policy includes the recommendation from a committee of residents, students and parents of three names for any new school. The board makes the final decision on a new name.
The catalyst driving the debate, in part, was an effort by state Sen. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George’s) to secure state funds to place a statue of Len Bias, a University of Maryland basketball star, at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville.
Board members privately worried about the precedent that might be set were they to erect a statue in honor of Bias, whose death sparked a national discussion about drug use.
The controversial request by Ramirez led the school board members to examine its procedures for naming schools, building and monuments.