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Three years ago, Ben Carson visited the Detroit school that bears his name and was greeted enthusiastically by staff and students alike. They were honored to meet the famed pediatric neurosurgeon who is from Detroit and a product of the city’s public schools.

At that event, Dr. Reginald Eadie, the head of the Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine governing board, said this: “He [Dr. Carson] is proof that with commitment, dedication and tenacity, you can overcome the odds. He gave me the hope when any bit of doubt crept into my mind. There are not a lot of Ben Carsons."

Eadie went on to say that Carson is “intertwined in the curriculum.”

That was then. The reality now is that the Detroit Public Schools Community District school board is trying to erase Carson’s name from the school. The board voted last week to begin a process of renaming several buildings, including this one.

The board is irked that Carson, a Republican who ran for president and is now the Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Trump administration, has this honor.

Perhaps the board should review why Carson was chosen for the honor in the first place. According to the high school’s website, “Dr. Benjamin Carson whose journey from impoverished, inner-city Detroit youth to acclaimed neurosurgeon is remarkable and is a constant reminder to Benjamin Carson students that their career dreams are achievable.”

That’s all still true, and Carson is still an inspiration.

While this particular decision by the school board is questionable, what’s most disappointing is that the board is showing glimpses of past bad behavior. It wasn’t surprising that longtime board member LaMar Lemmons is the force behind trying to get rid of Carson’s name. He doesn’t like that the school was named when the district was under control of a state-appointed emergency manager — the board still existed but had no official authority. Lemmons says he wants to rename the handful of schools that underwent name changes under state control, and he wants the state to pay for it. 

The only decisions the school board should be making right now ought to center on fixing the district’s academic failures and ensuring the district stays on track financially. The district still faces dozens of teacher openings, infrastructure woes, and empty seats in too many buildings. Those are matters worthy of the board’s time.

Wasting the staff’s time, including Superintendent Nikolai Vitti's, on community meetings and reports over building names, is the wrong priority.

And it sends the message this board cares more about power trips than what’s in the best interest of students.

ijacques@detroitnews.com 

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