Drake to launch online tourney Feb. 1 on new names

Students, parents, staff and community members at Sir Francis Drake High School will be asked to vet 85 new names for the school in an online poll to be sent out Feb. 1.

Members of Drake’s site leadership council decided Thursday on the schedule for the polling, modeled after a college basketball-style tournament format. Using brackets, quarter-finals and semi-finals, the group intends to narrow the choices to one name by mid-March.

“We’ll get it down from 85 to eight, then the final four, then down to two and then one,” said Liz Seabury, principal of the San Anselmo high school temporarily known as H.S. 1327 — a reference to its address — while the name change process is underway.

The schedule and rules for the process will be posted at tamschools.org/drake.

Votes will be separated into and weighted among the four groups: students, staff, parents and community members. Each group’s votes will account for no more than 25{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} of the final tally. For the first round, each voter will be allowed to choose three names; for subsequent rounds, only one name may be selected.

A voters’ guide will be prepared by ninth- and 10th-graders who are members of the school’s eight small learning communities. The SLCs, which include from 90 to 100 students each, will research the various names in order to produce the guide prior to the quarter-finals, tentatively set to begin Feb. 22.

After six months of controversy, the site leadership council voted in November to change the name of the school to remove any reference to Drake because of the 16th century English explorer’s ties to slave trading, colonialism and White supremacy. Opponents of the name change, many of them school alumni, argued that Drake changed his life to one of service and accomplishment and so was worthy of recognition.

Since July, the school has received up to 500 suggestions for new names. Those have been reduced down to 85 to eliminate redundancies and drop those names that did not meet the criteria set up by the council.

Name change opponents have asked to include Sir Francis Drake in the list of name choices, but the council decided against the idea in December. Seabury said Thursday the council has already voted to change the name, and that Drake’s name also did not meet the list’s criteria of being free of any ties to racism, slavery or abuse.

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