Rename Schoenbar Middle School

John Shoenbar never deserved to have a school named after him.

Back in January I went to the Ketchikan City Council and proposed that Ketchikan's flag should be revised or replaced. Now I'd like to offer up another suggestion for the community that no one will probably pay any attention: Schoenbar Middle School should change its name.

There are only two schools in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District named after people—Houghtaling Elementary School and Schoenbar Middle School. Houghtaling was opened in 1961 and named after longtime school board member and local education supporter Bert Houghtaling. The middle school’s name was selected a few years later in 1964. According June Allen, the name Schoenbar was chosen because, ironically, the decision makers at the time did not want to name another school after a person—so they named it after its location on Schoenbar Road.

Naming the middle school after Schoenbar Road, however, effectively named it after John Shoenbar.

This recent KRBD story really exposes how unworthy John Shoenbar is of having a school named after him. According to all the facts we in Ketchikan know about the man, he was a dishonest con artist who swindled investors and didn’t contribute anything of value to the Ketchikan community.

Now, I understand that our middle school has been named Schoenbar for over fifty years, and I know many people in my community, including me, are happy to have been students at Schoenbar Middle School. I personally do not have any suggestion of a new name for the school, and I think it would be presumptuous for me to make one. I also would hope that no one’s offended or affronted by my comments. There may be people out there who are really attached to the Schoenbar name and think it holds the most value simply because it's been the school's name for so long.

However, I do think it would be an amazing opportunity for our education community—if Schoenbar’s students, families, and staff are interested—to work on finding a new name that would honor someone or something more meaningful than an early 20th-century con man.

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