Students speak: It's Sequoyah Middle School


The Mirror

So, how does Sequoyah Middle School sound?

Students who will attend Federal Way Public Schools' seventh middle school beginning in the fall selected Sequoyah from a list of five names.

Illahee Middle School students Nicole Moffat, Jordan Olson and Bryce Metzler liked the name, but for different reasons. They will attend the new school in September.

It wasn't much of a contest. More than 300 of the 500 students who voted chose the name of the man who created the Cherokee Nation's written language.

Second place was Mayan with more than 60 votes. Moffat said she voted for Mayan because she liked the sound of it, but, when she learned later the meaning of the name, made a mental change to Sequoyah.

Aside from approving of the sound of the name, the three students had different reasons for making it their choice. Metzler said he was mostly concerned that it be easy to pronounce so he could tell his friends.

School Board member Charles Hoff said he and the other three board members will vote on the name during their May 10 meeting.

Barring an unforeseen circumstance, approving the name should end an emotional issue that has been going on for a few months.

The Illahee students said they knew there had been a lot of talk in the community about the new name. Olson, a sixth-grader, said knowing his friends liked Sequoyah was important in his selection, but the name of the school wasn't so important to him as knowing he was getting an education.

Metzler, a seventh-grader, repeated the ease of pronouncing the name as being the deciding factor for him. He noted some of the other names, like Cameahwait and Subiyay, were too difficult to pronounce even for the teachers.

The name's meaning and what effect it could have the on school's atmosphere was something she thought about when making the choice, said Moffat, a sixth-grader.

In fact, they were more interested in the school's colors and mascot. They peppered Alex Clauson, the dean of students at the new school, and Lisa Knapp, Illahee's librarian who will transfer to the new school, with questions. They were also happy to hear classes would start at 8 a.m. at the new school instead of 7:25 they've been used to at Illahee.

The threesome's votes, along with their peers', could end the debate on an issue the community couldn't agree upon.

"I hope so," Hoff said with a bit of exasperation in his voice.

In March, middle school student Kara Dameron requested the board suspend the school district's policy for naming a middle school and use the name Patrick Maher, a Federal Way Police officer killed in the line of duty in 2003. The district has required that middle schools be named for a person, place or subject from Native American literature.

While board members approved of Dameron's chutzpah, they declined to change the policy. But Dameron's request started a communitywide pro-Maher lobbying effort that grew to include people outside of Washington.

The city of Federal Way has a room at City Hall named after the slain officer, and plans are in the works to have a memorial in front of the building.

Another name that became popular for a time was Bob Satiacum, former chief of the Puyallup Tribe. But Satiacum's family withdrew their late-patriarch's name after a majority of the board turned it down and controversy over his life came to light.

The board also threw out the initial names the students selected, noting they were not from Native American literature.

Olson and Metzler said they originally chose Klahanie over Mesika of the two original names. Moffat couldn't remember what she chose.

Students and other citizens were invited to put ideas in the proverbial hat for the $17 million new school on South 336th Street. A committee that is designing the school's curriculum winnowed the suggestions to a small group that students voted on. The committee presented the top two to the board for its approval.

But after several heated meetings, Hoff and the board agreed to open the selection process to themselves. While the students can vote on the name they prefer, it's the board that makes the final decision. Board members proposed names they liked and sent them to the students to choose from, and the board agreed to go with the students' selection.

"That's the agreement," Hoff said.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565;

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