Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Barely had President Obama completed his first 100 days in office when the students, staff and the local community in St. Paul, Minnesota voted to change the name of an elementary school on Holly Avenue to Barack and Michelle Obama Service Learning Elementary.
It was not the first name change for the school -- and it would not be the last. Facing many challenges in providing good education to the community’s children, school leaders were exploring different methods and concepts to engage students and their families.
Originally known as Webster Elementary when it was built in 1926, enrollment was at less than 25% capacity when the Minnesota Department of Education successfully re-created it as Webster Magnet School in the the 1970s.
As other magnet schools were opened in the city, enrollment again began to drop and Webster tried a new approach and new name: Webster Service Learning Elementary, with an emphasis on completing service hours both in the school and in the community as part of the educational experience. With the election of the nation’s first black president, another name-change was suggested. Ballots were cast and the community chose “Barack and Michelle Obama Service Learning Elementary School” in May, 2009.
Plans were made in 2011 to phase out service learning in favor of a college preparatory educational experience which would have modified the name to Obama Prep, but the proposed junior high grades have not yet been added. Instead, in the fall of 2016, the Superintendent of Schools and the Minnesota Board of Education authorized the current name: Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary School.
Knowing the Obamas’ respect for education, any school that has persisted for nearly a century to bring knowledge and opportunity to its neighborhood has earned their right to share the name!