A Detroit high school could get its old name back, and pay tribute to the late John Conyers

Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School at Northwestern could be getting a new, but old name. And its auditorium could be named after late Congressman John Conyers.

Those are two proposals on the table before the Detroit school board. Decisions likely won’t come for another month or so. 

The board is expected to take action on whether to begin the process that could lead to reverting back to the original school name, Northwestern High School. Surveys would have to go to key groups, such as students, staff, parents, and alumni, to determine if there is support for the name change.

A change back to Northwestern has the backing of the Northwestern High School Alumni Association. Some of its members asked for the name change during a school board meeting earlier this month. And a petition calling for a name change, signed by more than 700 people, was turned in to the district.

Information included in the agenda for a Monday school board committee meeting noted that the school’s name was changed from Northwestern High “unilaterally through emergency management. Community stakeholders were not engaged and did not provide input.”

Angelique Peterson-Mayberry, vice president of the board, said Monday she’s excited about the process moving forward.

“Northwestern has this rich history,” she said.

The board has a policy that outlines the steps that must be taken to name or rename a school building. The first step is for the board to initiate the process. The policy requires administrators to then hold community meetings and conduct surveys to gauge support.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the only cost associated with changing the name would be to change signs outside the building, and eventually, to change uniforms that are labeled with the school name. He estimated the cost to be between $40,000 and $50,000.

The board also is likely to take action next month on a proposal to name the school’s auditorium after Conyers, the congressman from Detroit who served more than 50 years. Conyers, a Northwestern alum, died last month. The auditorium would be called the John James Conyers, Jr. Auditorium.

Vitti told school board members at a committee meeting Monday that the Conyers proposal stems from a request by the Conyers family. 

The process for naming an auditorium after someone only requires board approval. Such a commemoration, though, is “reserved only for those individuals who have made a significant contribution to the enhancement of education generally or the district in particular or to the well-being of the district, community, state or nation,” the board policy states.

“Congressman Conyers did a lot for education and was right there with us, speaking and echoing that education is a civil right,” board member Deborah Hunter Harvill said during Monday’s meeting. “He means a lot to the world of education.”