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District dedicates school named for English learners' advocate



Natividad Pagan was a strong advocate for students learning the English language, so it is fitting that a school that serves refugees and immigrants has been named in her honor.

CMSD held a ribbon-cutting Wednesday at Natividad Pagan International Newcomers Academy, which was formerly named for Thomas Jefferson. The school currently serves more than 560 students who are in preschool through 12th grade and represent many of the 67 home countries and 57 languages and dialects found in the District.

Pagan, who died in 2016, was the founding principal of the Newcomers Academy. Throughout her career, she worked to help students learn English while maintaining their cultural heritage.

“This is amazing,” said Pagan’s daughter, Melisa, who was among family members who attended the ceremony. “It’s a complete honor, it’s very emotional.”

Pagan could relate to her students – she moved from Puerto Rico to Cleveland when she was 7 years old and had to learn a new language and culture. But Pagan held fast to her roots, said Leo Serrano, a cousin who serves at CMSD’s executive director of institutional advancement.

“You need to embrace where you came from,” Serrano told the audience in the school gymnasium. “You come from a family. You come from a community. You come from a country. You come from a culture. You don’t leave that behind.”

Ward Councilman Kerry McCormack applauded the decision to honor Pagan, saying she was “such the right person to have her name be on this school forever.”

Newcomers Principal Marisol Burgos served as Pagan’s assistant principal. She said the school is working with organizations to add after-school programming focused on things Pagan cared about, including diversity and the arts.

Natividad Newcomers Academy is among the first three schools renamed under a policy that the Board of Education initiated last year.

Board policy prohibits naming schools for individuals who have a documented history of enslaving other humans, or actively participating in the institution of slavery, systemic racism, the oppression of people of color, women, or other minority groups, or who have been a member of a supremacist organization. Thomas Jefferson was president and a Founding Father, but he also was a slave owner.

Stephanie Tubbs Jones School, formerly named for Patrick Henry, was dedicated last week. At 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13, the District will celebrate the naming of a school for Mary Church Terrell, an internationally known lecturer, educator and activist for racial equality and women’s rights. The school, located at 3595 Bosworth Road, formerly was named for biologist and geologist Louis Agassiz.