Overland Elementary will be the name of one of Rochester's two new schools being constructed in the northwest quadrant of the city.
The School Board approved the name on Tuesday with a 6-1 vote. Jess Garcia was the sole opposing board member. The decision came after the School Board had a split vote on the same name during its last meeting.
During both meetings, Garcia said she didn't think the top two names that came out of the nomination process were representative enough of the whole community. She acknowledged the community followed the district's request when it was asked for name suggestions, but she still would vote against the Overland option.
"I want to honor the fact that the community did what we asked them to," Garcia said. "We need to own that as the board — we made this issue for ourselves."
The naming process started when the district asked for suggestions from the public. From there, a group within the district whittled the list down to five finalists. The district released that list back to the community and asked them to rank the names based on which of the five they liked best. The top two were "Overland" and "Henry Plummer."
Overland refers to Overland Drive Northwest, a road near the new school. Henry Plummer was "a southeast Minnesota native who made revolutionary medical and engineering innovations right here in Rochester," according to information from the district.
The board also voted on the Henry Plummer option during Tuesday's meeting. That vote failed by a 5-2 margin, with Melissa Amundsen and Julie Workman voting in favor, and Don Barlow, Karen MacLaughlin, Jean Marvin, Cathy Nathan and Garcia voting against it.
Garcia wasn't the only one to speak out about the lack of diversity in the top two names. The American Indian Parent Advisory Committee (AIPAC) presented a statement expressing disappointment in the top two results.
"The finalist names and how they were chosen are not reflective toward the equitable strides our district is adamant on making," said Ryley Randolph, a Century High School student. "We, the AIPAC, see this as a missed opportunity to strengthen Rochester Public Schools' relationship with its American Indian community, and further its relationship to the land it resides on — which is the ancestral land of the Dakota people who were forcibly removed from this area only generations ago."
One of the names on the list of the five finalists was "Woksape," a Dakota word for "wisdom."
Barlow said that rejecting the input the community provided to the School Board could drive a wedge between the two.
"The point is we asked the community to come up with the names. They did," Barlow said. "I think we risk losing a lot of community support when we ask them to do something and then we kind of turn our nose up at what they do. To me, that's personally highly offensive."
In addition to approving a name for the school, the board also received an update on the construction process. Keane McWaters of Knutson Construction said the school is about half finished. According to a timeline for the project, construction is expected to wrap up in August.