Changing the Name, Changes the Culture

Changing the Name, Changes the Culture

Carley Beatty and Ruby Webb

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The North Clackamas School District (NCSD) has plans to convert Rock Creek Middle School into a new high school. The naming process for the new school has taken 3 years in the making and caused lots of disagreements. The North Clackamas School District put together a naming committee. These are some of the names they came up with:

  • Adrienne C. Nelson High School
  • James DePreist High School
  • Wy’East High School
  • Marie Dorion High School
  • Mercedes Deiz High School
  • Happy Valley High School
  • Happy Valley High School Adrienne C. Nelson Campus
  • James DePreist Happy Valley High School

Back in May of 2016, the NCSD Board voted 4-3 to reject the top choice of the naming committee, which was Adrienne C. Nelson, an African-American woman. The Board also rejected the committee’s second suggestion, James Depreist, who was an African-American man. Many community members wanted the name of the school to be Happy Valley High School and nothing else.

Finally, after much debate, the naming process finally came to a close in May of 2019, with the official name being Adrienne C. Nelson High School or ACNHS. In North Clackamas, no other high schools are named after a woman, especially not a black woman. The newest North Clackamas School is set to be opening in 2021.

Adrienne C. Nelson is an American lawyer and the first black woman to be appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court. In 2006, Adrienne Nelson was appointed as a trial judge on the Multnomah County Circuit Court in Portland, Oregon. This made her the second African American female judge in the entire state of Oregon. In January of 2018, she was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court, making her the first African American to sit on the state’s highest court and any appellate state court. Before all of this, Justice Nelson earned a good education by getting her Doctor of Jurisprudence degree (from the University of Texas), as well as her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Criminal Justice (from the University of Arkansas). Justice Nelson has made several accomplishments and received several awards over the course of her life. One of them being the Oregon Women Lawyers (OWLS) Judge Mercedes Deiz Award for promotion of women and minorities in the legal profession and in the community.

Jonathan Hutchison, Communications Director for the North Clackamas School District says there were many factors that contributed to the issues and controversies with naming the new high school. One factor that was of a large concern, was the fact that the name of a high school entails many things: sports, bumper stickers for cars, college applications, etc. Furthermore, Hutchison explains, “One can’t be naive and think naming a high school after a Black woman wouldn’t bring up strong opinions.” The more positive side of naming the new high school after a person of color, is that “having the new neighborhood high school and elementary school named after accomplished, smart, and justice-seeking Black woman will assist NCSD symbolically by having school names that reflect the demographics of the student body and the larger community we serve” (Hutchison). While there were many opposed to the idea of naming the new high school after a person of color, many more people supported it and with good reason.