Middle school name issue drags on


The Mirror

If the school district had sold tickets to Tuesday's Federal Way School Board meeting, it might have alleviated budget woes.

Parents, teachers, students and community members filled a meeting room at City Hall to give the board their opinions on naming Federal Way Public Schools' new middle school.

The name has become an issue after a middle school student suggested the board waive its policy and put slain Federal Way Police officer Patrick Maher's name on the building.

Planned for a fall opening, the new school is on South 360th Street near Lakeland Elementary School. Voters approved the $11.9 million school in a bond measure that also paid for Todd Beamer and Truman high schools.

The board didn't choose a name Tuesday, but opened the process up after citizens spoke to Native American-related names. The district's policy for naming schools gives the board the power to make the final decision. While the April 12 meeting was supposed to be when the board would select a name, it was unclear at the end of Tuesday's discussion. The next board meeting is scheduled for March 22.

"I had no idea naming the school would be so controversial," said Beth Dowsing, a member of the middle school planning committee. She expected challenges from the community on the curriculum or time schedule, she added.

Maher was killed on duty in 2003 when a suspect grabbed the officer's handgun and shot him.

Kara Dameron, a Totem Middle School student, suggested Maher's name to the board last month and presented a petition and endorsements from political leaders.

Most board members have been reluctant to waive the policy that states Federal Way middle schools must be named after a person, place or event from Native American literature. Yet the Native American names submitted to the board by the new school's planning committee weren't met with enthusiasm. Board members have said "Mesika" and "Klahanie," while from the Salish language, aren't from Native American literature.

Mesika means "you, your or yours" and Klahanie means "out of doors".

Those watching the board had their own ideas Tuesday, and emotions ran high as people applauded speakers they supported.

Jon McIntyre recommended the late Puyallup Tribe chief Robert Satiacum. A Native American activist who pushed for fishing rights, Satiacum died in Canada in 1991 after leaving the United States following a federal trial for racketeering.

Suzanne Satiacum, his widow, and other family members thanked the board for considering Satiacum's name.

Calling him "a man of his word," Suzanne Satiacum said her husband believed in education, enjoyed school and was a hard worker.

Dameron and her father further lobbied the board for Maher's name and noted he had been posthumously adopted into a Native American tribe. On Monday, the Little Shell Pembina Band adopted Maher at a ceremony on the site of the new middle school. The tribe routinely adopts natives and non-natives.

The meeting also got personal. Craig Dameron, Kara Dameron's father, singled out board member Evelyn Castellar, saying he was "appalled" by her body language while his daughter spoke to the board.

Castellar said it wasn't her intent to offend anyone and apologized. She asked for an apology from Dameron. They spoke to each other during a break, but it was unclear what was said.

Other students urged the board to stick with the original school-naming policy.

"I don't feel this is the time for the board to break its own rules," Rachel Broberg said.

Board member Ed Barney agreed, saying that since the naming process started with the current policy, the board shouldn't change it.

Member Charles Hoff said the board will follow the process used to adopt the name for Todd Beamer High School.

The latter drew national attention to the school district in 2003. Beamer was one of the passengers aboard one of the airliners hijacked by 9-11 terrorists. It's believed he and other passengers and crew members overpowered terrorists before the plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania and all aboard died.

Naming the school after Beamer was popular with its students. Some community members didn't like the choice, saying Beamer didn't have a connection with the community.

Board members, at that time, included names for consideration after community members and students had made their selections.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565,

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