The Neptune City Board of Education is considering changing the name of its only school.
Board President Anthony Susino told the Borough Council at its meeting earlier this week that members of the public should decide whether to rename the Woodrow Wilson School.
The school is named after Woodrow Wilson, former governor of New Jersey and 28th president of the United States. The Democrat is considered the pioneer of the progressive political movement. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1920 for his work as architect of the League of Nations, forerunner to today’s United Nations.
However, Wilson’s views on segregation have resurfaced in light of recent events, prompting a number of educational institutions to reevaluate their acknowledgement of his legacy.
Monmouth University voted in June to rename Woodrow Wilson Hall on its campus to “The Great Hall at Shadow Lawn.”
When Princeton University dropped Wilson’s name from its public policy school the same month, the university Board of Trustees said that “Wilson’s racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school whose scholars, students and alumni must be firmly committed to combatting the scourge of racism in all its forms.”
No African-Americans were admitted to Princeton while Wilson was its president, though fellow Ivy League colleges Harvard and Yale were integrated decades earlier.
“Segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you,” Wilson said in 1914 to Harvard graduate William Monroe Trotter, editor of an abolitionist newspaper in Boston.
As president, Wilson resegregated the civil service system and allowed his cabinet to segregate the Treasury, the Post Office, the Navy and other government departments.
Susino said he would support renaming the school to the Neptune City School if residents decided to change the name.
He said the board would consider methods of surveying public opinion about the possible change.
“It’s their school so I figured they should have a say,” Susino told the council.
Also at the meeting, Susino introduced Raymond J. Boccuti, who was recently hired as the district’s new chief school administrator.
“I am very excited about my new position, and I look forward to getting to know and serving the students, staff, parents, and community,” Boccuti said in a statement. “As we get to know each other, you will see that my entire career has been dedicated to meeting the needs of every child, moving school districts forward, and earning the trust of all stakeholders every day.”
Boccuti served as superintendent of schools in Spring Lake, signing a five-year contract in 2017. He resigned from the position on July 15, 2019.
Previously, Boccuti was superintendent of the New Hope-Solebury School District in Pennsylvania for nearly eight years. He has been an adjunct professor at the Lehigh University College of Education in Bethlehem, Pa., where he achieved a doctorate in education.
Boccuti also served as principal at the H.W. Mountz School in Spring Lake. In addition to being chief school administrator, he will hold the position of principal at the Wilson school.
Both Neptune City and Spring Lake have faced declining enrollment in recent years.
Spring Lake had the second highest decrease in enrollment in Monmouth and Ocean counties over a four-year period ending in 2018, with a decrease in students of nearly 20 percent.
Only Neptune City had a larger decrease in the same period, with enrollment at the Wilson school falling nearly 27 percent.