Students at three Tempe Elementary School District properties will return to familiar buildings in a few weeks, but while their surroundings will be familiar, the names of their schools will not.
The Tempe Elementary Governing Board voted June 22 to change the names of Gililland Middle School, Hudson Elementary and Laird School because their namesakes are believed to have had ties to the Ku Klux Klan in the early 20th century.
Those namesakes all were prominent residents of Tempe who played key roles in the city’s and the school district’s history. Some Tempe streets and parks also are named after people with suspected Klan ties based on Tempe History Museum research. The city is in the process of changing those names.
And while there had been no issue expressed over those names for nearly a century, that changed last year when the history museum dug up information that might have linked those public figures to the Klan.
Gililland Middle School becomes Geneva Epps Mosley Middle School. Gililland was named for Clyde H. Gililland, a former Tempe mayor and City Council member for three decades. Mosley was employed in Tempe Elementary at various schools from 1960 to 1989. She is believed to be the first African American teacher at Gililland. She was a substitute teacher until age 80 and still lives in Tempe.
Hudson Elementary becomes Joseph Spracale Elementary School. Hudson initially was named for Estmer W. Hudson, who developed Pima cotton, which became a major crop in Arizona’s economy. The school was built on property formerly owned by Hudson’s family. Spracale held administrative roles in the school district for 34 years at several schools. He has been a member of Tempe Elementary Impacts Education Foundation since 1991 and is president of the foundation.
Laird School becomes Cecil Shamley School. Laird was named for Hugh E. Laird, who was mayor of Tempe for 14 years and a state Legislator. He owned a pharmacy in downtown Tempe. Shamley was a district employee for 22 years in administrative roles at several schools and was developer of the Kindergarten Readiness Program at Laird.
When the Tempe History Museum uncovered information linking many prominent figures in the city’s history to the Ku Klux, the information was forwarded to Tempe City Council, which, in turn, alerted Tempe Elementary that some of its schools bore names of some of those figures.
Although the Ku Klux Klan more recently has been known to discriminate against Blacks and Jews, in this area in the early 1900s is was reputed to have focused primarily on anti-Catholic activity, and specifically against Catholic teachers in public schools.
Tempe Elementary agreed in January to evaluate the information and look into possibly renaming the three schools.
Informational meetings were conducted in February at Gililland Middle School, Hudson Elementary and Laird School to receive public comment and feedback.
In May, the Tempe Elementary Governing Board unanimously voted to proceed with renaming the schools and began soliciting public input on the proposed new names.
The name recommendations were presented to the Governing Board on June 8.
After two more weeks of public input, the board voted June 22 to make the changes, effective for the coming 2022-23 school year.
The Governing Board bypassed the two leaders for renaming based on its public-input solicitations: Joaquin Bustoz (185 responses in favor) and Adolfo Romo (119), both far ahead of third-place Shamley (89). Mosley ranked only fifth on the list (65) and Spracale ranked seventh (27).