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Waukegan’s Whittier School may be renamed for Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

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Updated: June 16, 2013 2:33PM

WAUKEGAN — Ray Bradbury would join the ranks of Jack Benny and Thomas Jefferson in having a Waukegan public school named in his honor under a proposal to rename Whittier Elementary on Lewis Avenue.

The District 60 Board of Education fielded a formal request on Tuesday, June 11, from a group of residents that included Karen Bales, a retired Waukegan educator who was principal at Whittier from 2006 to 2010.

District spokesman Nicholas Alajakis said the request is under review by Superintendent Dr. Donaldo Batiste, who will follow district policy in considering the change.

According to that policy, the Board of Education can designate school names to honor “U.S. Presidents, statesmen and heroes of national fame, local educators, local community and civic leaders, or other individuals deemed by the Board to have made a significant contribution to education in Waukegan.”

Any name designation must be approved by a majority board vote. Alajakis added that it remains to be seen if the proposal will be on the agenda for the board’s next regular meeting, scheduled for June 25.

Whittier, which opened in 1927, was named for 19th century New England poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Among the other U.S. sites bearing his name is the city in California where Richard Nixon spent his childhood years and went to high school and college.

Bradbury, a prolific author, was born in Waukegan and lived near the Waukegan Ravine off Washington Street through his elementary school days. He attended the long-gone Central School on what is now the site of the Waukegan Public Library.

The movement to put Bradbury’s name above the doors at Whittier comes a year after the “Martian Chronicles” author passed away at age 91.

There is recent precedent for renaming a Waukegan school for a local figure, with the former East Middle School on Butrick Street having been named for the late Miguel Juarez in 2005, two years after the one-time Board of Education member passed away while serving as police chief.

Another name change was made at the former East Middle School on Washington Street, which opened in 1905 and was retitled for Waukegan special-education pioneer Robert E. Abbott in 1992.

Also, what is now Carman-Buckner Elementary School on Helmholtz Avenue, was known for more than 60 years as Lincoln-McAlsiter School until 1968, when it was renamed for former principal Gertrude Carman. In 2001, the name was again amended to honor another former principal, Isabel Buckner.

Other schools in the city are named for historical figures like Daniel Webster and local educators like John S. Clark and H.R. McCall. And the Waukegan native once known as Benjamin Kubelsky flew in from Hollywood in 1961 to dedicate Jack Benny Junior High, now known as Jack Benny Middle School.

While Whittier is not without his literary fame — his familiar quotations include “of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: It might have been” — Bradbury was a National Medal of the Arts recipient whose 1953 novel “Fahrenheit 451” was named last July as one of the “Books that Shaped America” by the Library of Congress.

Bradbury’s other notable works included “Dandelion Wine” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” both of which were set in Green Town, his idealized version of Waukegan. His local honors include a star on the city’s Sheridan Road Walk of Fame and Ray Bradbury Park, which was dedicated in 1990 on Madison Street west of City Hall.

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