A new school should be named for Southeast Raleigh after all, Wake board says

An artist's rendering of the proposed combination YMCA and a preK-5 school in Southeast Raleigh.
An artist's rendering of the proposed combination YMCA and a preK-5 school in Southeast Raleigh. Courtesy of Purpose Built Commun

A new Wake County school will likely be called Southeast Raleigh Elementary after all, because residents urged leaders to use the name to honor the community.

The Wake school board has been going back and forth for weeks about what to call a new elementary school that will open in 2019 off of Rock Quarry Road near Interstate 40. The school is part of a complex that will include a YMCA facility, affordable housing and possibly a future grocery store and health care center.

Some board members said they worried Southeast Raleigh has a negative connotation that would deter families from enrolling at the school. The area, which is predominantly black, includes many of the poorest neighborhoods in Raleigh.

But for Bobby Allen, a lifelong resident of Southeast Raleigh, the school board’s latest school-name proposal is “fantastic.” He told the school board in January that the community is home to doctors, lawyers, politicians and former school board members.

“So what are we going to tell them? That the name Southeast Raleigh is not worthy?” asked Allen, who has two grandchildren who are graduates of Southeast Raleigh High. “I implore you, please revisit that ... and name it Southeast Raleigh Elementary School for the pride that’s in it.”

The school board had initially planned to name the school Southeast Raleigh Elementary but switched the name in December to Beacon Promise Elementary. Board member Keith Sutton, whose district includes Southeast Raleigh, said he had from people who said naming the school after the community would saddle it with a bad image.

“I personally don’t necessarily see the negative connotation, but in listening to some folks and having the conversations, there are some that feel that way, and that will hinder the potential of the school,” Sutton said at a school board facilities committee meeting in December. “I’m trying to be as representative and as sensitive as possible to both sides of what I’m hearing.”

The board then chose the name Beacon Promise Elementary in honor of a nearby road called Promise Beacon Way.

On Wednesday, the board’s facilities committee agreed to support the name Southeast Raleigh Elementary. The full school board will vote on the name on Tuesday.

Bill Fletcher, chairman of the facilities committee, said he’d heard “ample support” for using Southeast Raleigh Elementary as the name.

The school, which is a joint project with the YMCA of the Triangle, will have features that other Wake County elementary schools don’t have, including a swimming pool, a rooftop garden, community kitchen and extra pre-kindergarten classrooms. Students might have a longer school day, and families in need could be connected to social services.

“It has a great ring to it, Southeast Raleigh Elementary,” Allen said. “I hope it helps spur relationships, community relations, with the high school, whether they can do some mentoring programs or something like that. There’s a wealth of resources right here within a mile of the school.”

Pressley Baird: 919-829-8935, @pressleybaird