Years ago, schools tended to be named after U.S. presidents, Washington mayors and Republican congressmen.
Today, presidents don't stand a chance -- Woodrow Wilson was the last one to get the honor. Now, community activists and local educators are more likely to earn the homage.
But there is one rule that applies to all nominees, whether they are national legends or neighborhood heroes -- they have to be dead for at least two years.
So far, 26 school administrators have had schools named after them. So have 19 U.S. presidents, 19 local principals and teachers, 17 mayors, 15 city administrators, seven school board members, four school superintendents, eight business leaders, eight black abolitionists and civil rights leaders, eight white abolitionists, seven military leaders, six congressmen, six artists and writers, three scientists, two newspaper publishers and one builder.
The District's first black schools were named after white abolitionists and "radical" Republican congressmen who spoke out against slavery.
Stevens Elementary, one of the first black schools built with public funds, was named after Thaddeus Stevens, a Pennsylvania legislator who hated slavery and once advocated the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. (Johnson survived the impeachment and got his own school named after him. It was demolished in the 1960s to make room for Lincoln Junior High.)
In 1872, the new Trustees of the Colored Schools of Washington and Georgetown voted unanimously to name a new school after Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner, a leader of anti-slavery forces who introduced a bill to free slaves long before President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.
A straw poll of blacks in the District before the trustees' vote showed that Sumner was the overwhelming popular choice. The school at 17th and M streets NW is now a school museum.
Shaw Junior High School is named after Robert Gould Shaw, a 25-year-old wealthy, white wealthy Bostonian. Shaw commanded one of the first Civil War regiments of black soldiers and was killed leading an attack in Charleston, S.C. His life was depicted in the movie "Glory."
A number of schools are named after prominent members of Washington society, many of whom contributed generously to local education. Hearst Elementary is named after Phoebe Hearst, a U.S. senator's wife and mother of publisher William Randolph Hearst.
Noyes Elementary is named for Crosby Noyes, publisher of the Washington Star, and Meyer Elementary is named for former Washington Post owner Eugene Meyer.
Though white schools often were named after prominent white leaders, black school officials traditionally chose the names of black leaders, scientists and artists: Douglass Junior High School after abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass; Kelly Junior High School after Kelly Miller, a turn-of-the-century sociologist and syndicated columnist in more than 100 black newspapers. D.C. schools were integrated in 1954.
But not all schools are named after big shots. Shaed Elementary in Northeast is named after two sisters, Alice and Ernestine Shaed, who spent much of this century teaching District first-graders.
Ernestine Shaed, who died in 1970, was considered one of the best teachers around for children who were just learning to read. Every year, as many as 240 parents would write to school officials pleading that their children be put in her class.