Plans to rename Ozone Park school after 9/11 hero put on hold

MS 202
THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Plans to rename Robert H. Goddard M.S. 202 have been put on hold after some community investigation.

The Ozone Park middle school planned to propose changing its name to Welles R. Crowther, after a man from Nyack who was hailed as a hero for leading about a dozen people out of the second tower during 9/11. He was featured in a documentary, “The Man with the Red Bandana,” for his actions.

Bill Fitzgerald, the school’s principal, said he and his staff saw the short film and were “very touched by his story.”

“I guess the question is, ‘Why this individual?’ Not to diminish the role he played. But the question would be, ‘Why?’” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo. “The concern amongst my constituents is that we have local people who might be just as entitled because of their efforts in 9/11.”

Fitzgerald said he and school officials are “really trying to do a better job of remembering 9/11.”

“We’re trying to get [the students] to understand more about what happened that day,” he said, because many students were born after the attack while others were just 1 year old.

“We selected someone whose story we thought was a little unique,” he said. “Even his life prior to that, he really set an example.”

However, after looking into the situation further, Fitzgerald and his staff discovered Richard Pearlman, a local man who went to M.S. 202 as a child and later lost his life in the terrorist attack.

“We’re not trying to insult anyone,” he said. “We want to be sensitive to the family. We’re trying to do a better job of remembering all of these people.”

A vote on the name change was originally scheduled for the Community Education Council’s (CEC) Jan. 27 open public meeting, but those plans have been paused for the time being.

Now it’s back to the drawing board for the middle school, but Fitzgerald said a name change is still a possibility.

After the school administration decides on a name, they will present it to the CEC, who will vote yes or no. If it is approved, the proposal then goes to the Family Engagement Office at the Department of Education.