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Committee to form to consider North Park renaming proposal

BY: Rikki Cason | February 11, 2013

North Park Junior High School could have a new name by the end of 2013.

The Lockport City School District Board of Education agreed Wednesday to form an ad hoc committee, which would begin to look into a proposal, submitted in June, to rename North Park the Aaron Mossell Junior High School.

A community group submitted a proposal, to rename the school after Aaron Albert Mossell, who was born in 1824 and became an unknown pioneer in the desegregation of American schools. Mossell was a grandson of slaves and the son of a former slave who purchased his own freedom. He was born a free black man and is a native of Baltimore, Md.

Mossell was known for embracing the importance of education for people of any background. He received a formal education before moving his family to Lockport during the Civil War because they were known as a city for its sympathy for African Americans.

There, he became a respected businessman and his brick-making business on Walnut Street provided bricks to area homes, businesses and municipal organizations. He was known as the first successful black businessman in Lockport and hired people of all races.

In Lockport, he was instrumental in desegregating the schools so his children, and other children of color could have the opportunity to learn.

When he supplied bricks to a school being built across the street from his home, he wanted to send his children there, rather than to the school for colored children, which was located several miles away from the home.

He worked for five years, appealing to the school board about the importance of desegregation, and in 1876, he was given permission for his children to attend the school of their choice. They were the first black students to attend Lockport public schools.

His fight and ultimate elimination of segregation in the Lockport schools happened almost 80 years before the United States passed legislation.

Mossell died in 1908.

In June, David Kinyon told the board he and a group of residents have been meeting informally since December 2011, researching and discussing a proposal left to them by Mike Pullano.

Pullano worked in the district as a teacher for 25 years before retirement in 2009. He passed away in October 2011, after battling melanoma for seven years. During his time teaching, Pullano taught history at North Park and was a history and special education instructor at Lockport High School.

The proposal has been on hold until the district finalized a policy regarding the renaming of school buildings. Now in place, a committee will take a period of time not to exceed six months to research, get community input and make a recommendation if renaming the school is in the best interest of the district.

The committee will also look into any other proposals submitted from others who wish to rename the school after someone in the community.

The committee will be made up of an administrator, teacher, student, board member and two community members — one who either attended Lockport schools or is a parent of a Lockport student. Trustee Jon Williams volunteered to represent the board of education on the committee.

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