Cohen family anger - Activist’s kin decry name change

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P.S. 230 Doris Cohen School is another step closer to changing its name in spite of objections from Cohen’s family.

The Community Education Council (CEC) for District 15, which includes P.S. 230, voted to approve the name change.

“We unanimously voted for it,” explained Jim Devor, the CEC’s first vice president.

P.S. 230’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) wants to rename the school for a 12-year-old boy killed during the Civil War.

But Cohen’s family says it’s disrespectful to rename the Kensington school, since Cohen was an important education activist.

Before her death in 1976, Cohen served on the local school board and fought for funding increases for public schools. She helped establish gifted and pre-K programs at local schools, including P.S. 230, which is located at 1 Albemarle Road.

Cohen’s son, Joseph, said the family will send a letter to schools Chancellor Joel Klein asking him to reject the name change application.

“We’re sending the chancellor a letter,” he said. “According to the regulations, the chancellor is not supposed to do anything until he hears from the family.”

Klein is expected to review the application and offer a final decision in the coming weeks.

“We’re extremely happy that it’s moving forward and we anxiously await the chancellor’s response,” said Nicholas Pisano, president of P.S. 230’s PTA. “We are hoping that it will be approved before our annual school fair [on June 8] so we can make it a great celebration.”

P.S. 230’s PTA sought the name change after students visited Green-Wood Cemetery and became interested in the life story of Clarence McKenzie, who is buried there.

McKenzie was a Brooklyn drummer boy who was killed by friendly fire at a training base in Maryland during the Civil War.

Pisano believes renaming the school in honor of McKenzie will provide students with a link to history.

Devor said he voted in favor of the name change because he supports the idea of building a relationship between P.S. 230 and Green-Wood Cemetery.

“My reason was that 230 is a very successful school. Green-Wood Cemetery is a jewel of Brooklyn that’s underappreciated. Anything that furthers both of those institutions is something that should be encouraged,” Devor said. “I think that trumped the genuine heartache of Doris Cohen’s family. They are unhappy and they feel that is important to them but I just didn’t think it was as important to 230 and to the education of our children.”

Updated 3:47 pm, October 19, 2011
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