July 17, 2009
The noted author Frank McCourt got his start teaching at two New York City high schools, and come next year, his name could grace another one.
According to his brother, McCourt is very ill with cancer and in hospice care. His death would make it possible for a school to be named after him, something that a group of Upper West Side advocates have been pushing for in recent months.
The advocates want to see a new communications-themed school open inside Brandeis High School, which occupies prime real estate on 84th Street and is now being phased out due to poor performance. With McCourt’s endorsement, they have been lobbying for the next school to open in the building to be called the Frank McCourt High School for Journalism, Writing, and Literature.
But one hitch has been that the city’s chancellor’s regulations prohibit schools from being named after living people.
The West Side Spirit, whose publisher Tom Allon is leading the campaign for the school, addressed the barrier in an editorial last month:
Although city regulations do not allow schools to be named after living individuals, the growing legion of supporters are using his name in the hopes that one day the new school will honor America’s most famous teacher.
At a public hearing that I attended in June about the Brandeis building, supporter after supporter stood up to praise the McCourt school plan, which they said would entice middle-class families to stay in the neighborhood for high school.
Last year, the city got around the prohibition on living namesakes by renaming a Queens campus with multiple schools on it the Frank Padavan Campus, after the current state senator from the area. (The decision angered Padavan’s opponent in last year’s senate race.)