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Madison Metropolitan School District

James Madison Memorial Naming Project Summary

by Lauren Morris

Overview

Recently, some of Madison Metropolitan School’s community members have been pushing the district to rethink the names of their school buildings. This past fall, MMSD renamed Falk Elementary Milele Chikasa Anana Elementary and Dr. Virgina Henderson’s name has replaced that of Glendale Elementary school.

In the spring of 2021, a petition was made to consider renaming James Madison Memorial High School, due to the fact that its namesake, James Madison, was a White slave owner. To stay true to the district’s anti-racist priorities and honor this petition, MMSD offered space  through a forum on the district website for community members to chime in with their initial thoughts on a renaming. Prompts around general comments and initial thoughts, naming suggestions and reasoning offered space for people to respond at a variety of levels, their interest in renaming or not renaming the high school. ROCKiT was brought on to assist with transforming the raw public commentary into something more digestible. These insights would be a resource for the ad hoc community committee as they go through the process outlined in School Board Policy (6700), and ultimately decide if and how to address the petition.

What We Did

For this project, Board of Education Secretary, Barb Osborn, and Communications Webmaster, Tony Rodriguez, called on the ROCKiT to support analyzing data for themes, overall sentiment, and initial suggestions. This information would be summarized and creatively presented to the ad hoc committee to help kick off the discussions necessary to determine whether or not to get into the work of ultimately changing the school name. ROCKiT saw this as a chance to build staff capacity around theming insights, a very involved process of digging into data, grouping concepts and tallying key words and phrases. It also offered the team a chance to use its internal expertise to identify themes that could lead to a quicker, more informed decision. Unfortunately, due to staff vacations and timing constraints, the team didn’t have enough time to teach learning tips and tricks for effectively doing that work.

Later on in the summer, ROCKiT was again asked to assist with organizing and simplifying the updated public commentary. This time, instead of focusing on general sentiment, the focus was on name preferences, justifications and community response to the suggested names. Lauren reviewed and analyzed over 750 separate comments and created an infographic that included  graphs, charts, word clouds and other images to help support discussions around the potential names presented to the Madison community.

Outcome

Ultimately, Lauren Morris of ROCKiT provided the clients and the ad hoc committee with a colorful infographic of the insights and suggestions derived from the survey data. While the team did not have the chance to fully teach the process of theming as planned, they did help expedite the initial analysis and helped prepare the district for the next phases of the renaming process.

What It Took:

From the Consulting Team:

  • 3 staff members from the offices of the Board of Education, Communications and Research & Program Evaluation 

    • 5 working meetings for a total of 11 hours 

From ROCKiT:

  • 2 Innovation Strategists to plan facilitate, and guide the team through the process

  • 22 hours over 4 months