Posted on November 30, 2021

N.J. District Will Restart Renaming of Woodrow Wilson School

Steven Rodas,, November 27, 2021

Nearly a year and a half after first announcing the change, the Camden school district has restarted the process of renaming Woodrow Wilson High School.

Renaming the 90-year-old school gained traction in the summer of 2020 in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis. But it grew out of concerns expressed by residents long before then, including a petition launched in 2019 to support the measure.

When officially announced last June, Camden Superintendent Katrina McCombs thanked the community which, “raised the concern about the school being named after an individual who expressed and demonstrated racist values.”

A renaming committee of over 100 members — including parents, local activists, and school administrators — was then formed and met over Zoom to discuss options. Among the contenders for the new name at the time was the late Civil Rights giant, U.S. Rep. John Lewis; former President Barack Obama and late Camden school board president Martha Wilson. East High School and Camden East (or East Camden) High School were also under consideration.

However, the school district paused plans at the end of the summer, saying it had to focus on the new school year given COVID-19 protocols.

During the Oct. 26 school board meeting, district officials said the process will start anew with a 10-person committee led by Elton Custis, board member and chair of the policy and government subcommittee. Anyone interested in joining the renaming committee must fill out a questionnaire, which the district said will soon be available online.


“We are proud that our schools represent places of diversity and inclusion, and we plan to increase our efforts to reshape the identity of this venerable and cherished school {snip}” the Camden school district said in a statement to NJ Advance Media. {snip}


When Princeton University removed the alumni and former university president from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Wilson College last year, the school’s board of trustees said, “we believe that Wilson’s racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school whose scholars, students, and alumni must be firmly committed to combating the scourge of racism in all its forms.”


Jose Delgado, a former school board member who was also part of the initial committee, said renaming the school could also be a teachable moment.


Delgado said establishing a thorough and transparent process for renaming the school will be important for posterity – giving insight to future school leaders and community members over how and why the change was made. He also thinks it’s vital the district keeps in mind the majority Hispanic population that inhabits East Camden where the school is located.