Fever pitch online comments were not matched by an in-person presence when the Burbank Unified facilities-naming committee held its first meeting regarding the possibility of dropping David Starr Jordan as a middle school namesake Thursday evening.
The topic sparked hundreds of comments on various social media sites but only drew 10 people to district headquarters for the meeting.
The low number prompted committee members to ask for a second meeting, which will be held on either Jan. 23 or Feb. 6 at Jordan Middle School, located on 420 S. Mariposa St.
Jordan was a renowned scientist, educator and founding father of Stanford University, who passed away in 1931. He is also notorious for his views on eugenics, a system of controlled breeding and separation of people to increase the chances for desirable heritable characteristics, a practice later favored by the Nazis.
During the recent meeting, Burbank Unified board member Charlene Tabet, who is also a member of the naming committee, said she appreciated the residents who attended.
“Please tell the folks that you’ve spoken to to please come and, if they’d like, to speak up, one way or another. It’s important to hear many viewpoints,” she said.
In addition to the second meeting request, committee members agreed to several measures.
All future meetings will be scheduled to last 90 minutes, though they could stretch to two hours, if needed, while the district’s director of secondary education, John Paramo, was asked to provide a preliminary budget as to what a name change would cost.
The next meeting will also be informational as it will include the merits and demerits of David Starr Jordan’s work and life. The gathering will be headed by Tabet, who was elected the committee’s chairperson.
The group is expected to take a straw poll at the next meeting, which will help determine its recommendation to the Burbank Unified school board.
At the center of the meeting on Thursday was a discussion on whether community standards have changed since 1948, when David Starr Jordan Middle School was christened.
Of the five public speakers, three were in favor of keeping David Starr Jordan as the namesake.
“I am here to urge you not to take any action on Jordan,” resident Carole Kubasak said. “If you do, I think you will have to, in all fairness, also examine all the other schools.”
She added, “I’m thinking [you’ll] also have to change the name of Jefferson because he impregnated a slave and Washington because he had slaves.”
That sentiment gave caution to committee member Elena Hubbell, who appeared to be leaning toward keeping Jordan and said she’d “fight forever” against any change to the Burroughs High School Indian mascot.
Resident Paula Morris said the committee should not be swayed by other districts. In March, the Palo Alto School District renamed schools named after Stanford educators Jordan and Lewis Terman because of the duo’s ties to eugenics.
Burbank resident Konstantine Anthony argued for a name change and added that money should not be an issue.
“A lot of people want to get behind this,” Anthony said. “I know the school district has some funding issues right now, and I will let you know there are more than enough people who would be willing to donate to offset the cost.”
One common-ground measure proposed by Tabet was to keep the Jordan name, but rename the school after African American civil rights activist and educator Barbara Jordan.
Also, committee member and parent Gayle Kolodny Cole suggested keeping the Jordan name by turning it into an acronym, with the letters standing for virtues such as “justice” and “open-mindedness.”