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Soul singer Aretha Franklin's name could be placed on a Detroit school.

Soul singer Aretha Franklin’s name could be placed on a Detroit school.

Out with Ben Carson, in with Aretha Franklin? Detroit kicks off a school renaming process

Detroiters with ties to four city schools will soon have their say over the buildings’ names. The city school board on Tuesday kicked off the process of renaming four schools whose names, some say, are out of alignment with the students they serve.

In the coming months, teachers, parents, and students at those schools will weigh in on the existing names and their potential replacements. Schools eligible for renaming include:

  • Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine
  • Harms Elementary School
  • Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men
  • Detroit School of the Arts.

Board members have made clear that singer Aretha Franklin is a top candidate to replace one of those names. Few cities mourned the city’s death with as much fervor as Detroit, and the City Council here has already renamed a park after her.

The measure passed with six votes in favor and one against. Member Sonya Mays voted no, saying she believed the district has more important issues to take on than the names of its schools.

Calls for a change at Carson have mounted since its namesake, a surgeon whose rags-to-riches personal story propelled him to fame, ran for president as a Republican, lost to Donald Trump, then took a position in Trump’s cabinet. If the presidential run wasn’t enough to alienate deep-blue Detroit, Carson’s recent proposal to hike rents in low-income housing units only further hurt his image with a city plagued by poverty and housing instability.

The schools up for renaming have been nominated by board members and school principals.

The district administration will distribute surveys about name changes to the communities surrounding the schools in question, then hold public forums to discuss the results, a process that is expected to take several months.

A school in the Detroit district is eligible for renaming when:

  • It was newly built or redesigned
  • The name of a school does not reflect the current school population,
  • The community of the geographic area where the school is located requests a name change that more closely aligns with the history of the locality
  • Information newly discovered about the current name of the school is negative in nature.