Students, staff and community members celebrated the renaming of Roots Academy at West Hill with a special assembly on Wednesday marking the installation of the school’s new sign.
After the assembly, the entire school community gathered outside amid falling snowflakes to cheer on its official unveiling.
“The school being renamed is a fresh start. It’s a way for not only the school, but our community, to shed light on what’s wrong and make it right. Roots Academy at West Hill is an inclusive, positive name that brightens and optimizes our community,” said Aaliyah Douglas, a former student.
Douglas is now a seventh-grader at North Albany Middle School. She, along with Qwami Galloway and Maida Mohsini, were on the student leadership team that took part in the name-change effort and returned to their alma mater to celebrate.
On July 1, the former Philip J. Schuyler Achievement Academy officially became Roots Academy at West Hill. The change came after months of work by a committee composed of students and staff, community members, the city historian and representatives from the Young Abolitionist Leadership Institute of the Underground Railroad Education Center and the Black Child Development Institute.
In addition to being a Revolutionary War general and former United States senator, Philip Schuyler was a slaveholder. The district and school community moved forward with the renaming in alignment with the belief that no school, especially a school that serves a majority of African-American students, should honor the legacy of a person who owned slaves.
Roots Principal Kendra Chaires-Francis explained the rationale behind the name change.
“When I became principal of Philip J. Schuyler Achievement Academy in 2017, I approached [school district leaders] about a name change. While Philp Schuyler was an influential person who had some noteworthy accomplishments in his lifetime, he also was a person who owned. Given the hope that we have for our students and their future, we knew a name change was in order.
Also on hand to celebrate the new sign were Superintendent Joseph Hochreiter, Board of Education President Vickie Smith and Vice President Anne Savage, and Mayor Kathy Sheehan.
After the sign’s unveiling outdoors, students returned through the front doors to a throng of cheers and applause.