EAST VILLAGE — The East Village's William McKinley School got some support in an effort to ditch its presidential moniker in favor of a fresher-sounding name from a committee of Community Board 3.
P.S. 63, located on 121 E. Third St., got unanimous approval from the joint committee that includes the Youth & Education Committee to lose the 20th century Commander in Chief and become the S.T.A.R Academy — short for the school’s "Students Taking Active Roles" program.
Principal Darlene Despeignes, who is in her fifth year at the helm of P.S 63, said the impetus to change the name has been more than three years in the making.
“Once a parent called me Mrs. McKinley,” said Despeignes, who has no relation to the he 25th president of the United states who was assassinated in 1901 during his second term.
“That is when it occurred to me: 'How irrelevant is William McKinley right now?'” she added. “We feel like it doesn’t really say who we are as a school. It doesn’t state what our mission statement is or what we believe about learning."
The S.T.A.R. program at P.S 63 was implemented three years ago to encourage students to take an active role in the culture of their school. Despeignes credited the program with helping the school rise from a former "F" grade ranking by the Department of Education, to a "B" for the past three years.
“Our character education program focuses on students being self-managed, accountable team players who respect themselves and their community,” said Despeignes, who has worked in the New York City schools system for 10 years. One example of participation is designating students as in-school E.M.Ts were students assist their peers to the nurse’s office.
The school is well into the process of the name change. Several votes have been taken among parents and teachers. About 98 percent of the school’s students voted in favor of the change last year, according to Despeignes, and the Parent and Teachers Association voted unanimously in support earlier this month.
Although official permission is yet to be received, the Community Education Council already gave its blessing in September for changes to the school’s letter head and some signage.
Despeignes is hoping the formal permission will come from the CEC in January next year followed by approval by DOE Chancellor Dennis Walcott. The school is expecting its renaming process to be completed by September 2012 and it will keep its identification number as P.S 63.