The elementary school under construction on Airport Road is in need of a name. The Newton County School System is considering naming the structure Palmer-Stone Elementary School, moving that name from the school in Oxford that will close with the opening of the new structure.
On first glance, that makes sense, since students from the historic old school will move into the new building. But there’s more than a name involved here. At issue is a sense of place. Palmer-Stone is part of the identity and heritage of the city of Oxford, and that’s where it should remain.
The names Palmer and Stone are part of the foundation of Oxford. James E. Palmer was an Emory professor and a founder of Palmer Institute in 1860, a forerunner of the modern elementary school. Harry Harlan Stone was a prominent educator in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
City residents want to keep the name within their community. The Oxford City Council and the city planning commission and history society have all passed motions against using the Palmer-Stone name for the new school. They understandably want to protect their heritage.
The new school is outside Oxford’s city limits. If the school system wants to pay homage to historic educators, there are several outstanding options, but the legacies of James E. Palmer and of Harry Harlan Stone should be honored within Oxford, the community they served.