West End School Name Down to Final Options

The West End School Naming Committee has selected four possible names for the new school to go forward to the School Board, who will make the final decision on February 22.

The committee has selected the names Katherine Johnson Elementary School, Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary School, Sonia Sotomayor Elementary School, and Day-Ochoa Elementary School from the 355 recommendations it received in the fall.

Last fall, the School Board launched the West End School Naming Committee, which has been meeting regularly since November to develop a list of name recommendations. The new school, which is set to open this fall, will have a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

The committee resolved that the names should be reflective of the new school’s diversity and inspirational to elementary-age students. As the new West End Elementary School will have a focus on STEM, the committee also wanted to ensure that the name for the school reflects the educational programing.

Members of the committee will present their recommendations, along with the criteria for each selection, at the School Board meeting this Thursday, February 8 at 7 p.m. in the School Board Meeting Room at 1340 Braddock Place.

Please come out to the Public Hearing on Thursday, February 15 at 7 p.m. in the School Board Meeting Room at 1340 Braddock Place to have your say about the recommendations.

Sign up to speak at the meeting

The School Board will vote on the recommendations on February 22. The School Board is also able to make its own recommendation separate from this final list. The final decision rests with the School Board.

Day-Ochoa Elementary School

dayFerdinand T. Day was born in 1918 in Alexandria and went to the Parker-Gray School through eighth grade before continuing his secondary education with D.C. Public Schools. Alexandria offered no formal high school education for blacks at that time.

He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in geography and history from Miner Teachers College in D.C. Unable to teach in Alexandria because he was black, he joined the federal government. He completed advanced management courses at the Foreign Service Institute and retired from the Department of State as a Foreign Service Reserve Officer.

Day lamented that Alexandria was a typical southern city with problems prevalent in the Deep South and worked tirelessly to affect positive change at the community and state level. He volunteered for the NAACP and Urban League and in 1964, was appointed to the Alexandria City School Board – just ten years after the Brown versus Board of Education decision. He became the first African American to be elected chair of a public school board in Virginia.

He later served as vice chair of the Virginia State Boards of Community Colleges. In 1985, he was selected by the Secretary of Education to assist in the continued implementation of desegregation for higher education.


In 1993, Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in the world to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. She is an engineer, former astronaut and the current Director of the Johnson Space Center.

Born in 1958 in California, she studied electrical engineering at Stanford University, earning a master’s degree and a doctorate. A specialist in the development of optical systems, she worked as a research engineer at Sandia National Laboratories and at the Ames Research Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

She helped create several systems and methods that were awarded patents, including optical systems for the detection of imperfections in a repeating pattern and for the recognition of objects.

In 1990, Ochoa was selected by NASA to participate in its astronaut program and she became the first Hispanic female astronaut when she completed her training in 1991. In April 1993, she served as mission specialist aboard the shuttle Discovery, becoming the first Latina to be launched into space.

She was part of the Atlantis mission in November 1994 and in 1999 she was a member of the Discovery crew that executed the first docking to the International Space Station (ISS). Ochoa returned to the ISS in 2002.

In 2007, Ochoa became deputy director of the Johnson Space Center and six years later she was promoted to director. She continues in that role today.

Katherine Johnson Elementary School


Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, currently 99 years old, is the African-American mathematician who performed the complex calculations that sent astronauts, including John Glenn, into orbit and back in the early 1960s and to the moon in 1969.

A former Virginia math teacher, she became renowned for her accuracy in computerized celestial navigation and conducted technical work at NASA that spanned decades. She calculated the trajectories, launch windows and emergency backup return paths for many of the early NASA missions, as well as the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon. Toward the end of her career she worked on the Space Shuttle program and on the plans for a mission to Mars. Her calculations were seen as critical to their success. In 2015, Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. No school has previously been named after her.

Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary School


Barack Hussein Obama II served as the 44th President of the United States from 2009 to 2017. The first African American to become president, he was previously the junior U.S. Senator from Illinois from 2005 to 2008. He served in the Illinois State Senate from 1997 until 2004.

Obama was born in 1961 in Hawaii and was raised there. After graduating from Columbia University in 1983 he worked as a community organizer in Chicago. In 1988, Obama enrolled in Harvard Law School, where he was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. After graduation, he became a civil rights attorney and professor and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004. Obama represented the 13th District for three terms in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004.

Obama received national attention in 2004 with his unexpected March Senate primary win, his well-received July Democratic National Convention keynote address and his landslide November election to the Senate. In 2008, Obama was elected president and was inaugurated on January 20, 2009. Nine months later, Obama was named the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, accepting the award with the caveat that he felt there were others “far more deserving of this honor than I.”

During his first two years in office, Obama signed many landmark bills into law. The main reforms were the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (often referred to as “Obamacare,” shortened as the “Affordable Care Act”), the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal Act of 2010.

During his second term, Obama promoted inclusiveness for LGBT Americans. His administration filed briefs that urged the Supreme Court to strike down same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional. Obama advocated for gun control in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and issued wide-ranging executive actions concerning climate change and immigration. Obama left office in January 2017 with a 60 percent approval rating and currently resides in Washington, D.C.


Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is an American lawyer and writer who was the first African American First Lady. Raised on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, Obama is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School and spent her early legal career working at the law firm Sidley Austin, where she met her husband. She subsequently worked as the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago and the Vice President for Community and External Affairs of the University of Chicago Medical Center. As First Lady, Obama became a role model for women, an advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity, healthy eating and fashion.

Sonia Sotomayor Elementary School


Sonia Maria Sotomayor is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving since August 2009. She was its first justice of Hispanic descent and the first Latina.

Sotomayor was born in the Bronx, New York City, to Puerto Rican-born parents. Her father died when she was nine, and she was subsequently raised by her mother. Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976 and received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1979, where she was an editor at the Yale Law Journal. She has played an active role on the boards of directors for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

During her tenure on the Supreme Court, Sotomayor has been identified with concern for the rights of defendants, calls for reform of the criminal justice system, and making impassioned dissents on issues of race, gender and ethnic identity.

View the material set to be presented to the School Board on February 8.

ACPS, Ferdinand Day, School Board