Four weeks ago, Clarksburg resident Rich Liu had never heard the name Hallie Wells; now he is petitioning the Montgomery County Board of Education to name the new middle school in Clarksburg after her.
Hallie Wells and her husband Ovid Hazen Wells were originally from Tennesee and moved to the District of Columbia in 1918. They retired from the federal government and moved to Clarksburg in the 1950s. The eventually accumulated 290 acres of farmland on the northern end of Skylark Road. In 1981, Hallie sold all 290 acres of this property to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission for just $10, according to the deed. This property is the park system in Clarksburg which bears the name Hallie’s husband.
“The story of Hallie Wells was very inspiring,” Lui. “What struck me about the Hallie Wells story was that her husband’s name is on the property, but there is no recognition for Hallie Wells. This woman donated all this land, which is worth millions of dollars today for the benefit of children.”
Earlier this month, the Board of Ed put forth four possible names for the new middle school which is slated to open in August of 2016. The four names, which the Board submitted for consideration are; Dr. Alan Cheung, Mr. James H. Daugherty, Dr. Paul Vance, and Dr. Michael Doran. The first three are former members of the Board of Ed, and the fourth is late principal at Thomas Wootton High School in Rockville.
As part of the process, the Board asked the Naming Committee, which is made up of members of the community that the school will serve, to come up with two additional names to be added to the list.
Liu, who is a member of the committee, said the two additional names suggested are Hallie Wells and John Clarke, the man who put the Clark in Clarksburg. However, Liu said, the naming committee’s overwhelming favorite was Hallie Wells.
“Hallie Wells’ story should be out there,” said Liu. “It is a great story for our children to learn, one of generosity, charity, and selflessness. There is so much positive energy going into this school, why not have a great name that we can talk about and be inspired by? At the end of the day, that is what we want to do with our children, we want to inspire them and make them better people, better citizens. To me, it is a no-brainer.”
He said that it would be almost poetic to have Ovid Hazen Wells Park at one end of Skylark Road and Hallie Wells Middle School at the other. Liu believes that while all the potential namesakes for the new middle school are deserving, he also believes that the name should have a direct link to the community it serves.
“The overwhelming sentiment that we had as a committee was that we wanted to school to be named for someone local,” said Liu. “Someone from our community, that gave back to our community. All of the other names are deserving and distinguished gentlemen, but we wanted a name that we can tie directly back to our community. Those names don’t resonate with our community.”
The petition which is online at Change.org currently has 638 supporters, on Friday afternoon.
There is another petition on Change.org supporting Dr. Alan Cheung has 1,318 supporters. Cheung was the first Chinese-American to serve on the Montgomery County Board of Education. Clarksburg resident Ting Chau sponsors the petition.
The final responsibility for officially naming a school building rests with the Board of Education.
The school is in the process of being built at 11701 Little Seneca Parkway in Clarksburg is set to open in August for the 2016-2017 school year.
The new school will be populated by students currently attending Wilson Wims Elementary School and Cedar Grove Elementary School. Fifth-grade students currently attending Wims and Cedar Grove elementary schools will be the first class to attend Clarksburg/Damascus Middle School for all three years of middle school.
Photo by Germantown Pulse