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School name change upsets some in Sioux Falls

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — A Sioux Falls elementary school that has honored a famous American author for decades is being razed and replaced by one that will honor a famous 19th century women's rights activist, and some residents of the neighborhood aren't happy about the change.

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A school to be built on the site of Mark Twain Elementary — which has stood since 1920 — will combine students from that school and from Longfellow Elementary, both of which will close in 2015. The School Board has decided to name the new school after Susan B. Anthony, after taking suggestions from the public.

School district officials think students will be inspired by Anthony's famous statement, "Failure is impossible," but some residents of the neighborhood think the name change will steal their identity.

"I believe the name of our neighborhood school has been taken away, and I believe the name of our neighborhood has also been taken away," resident Melanie Bliss said. "I am questioning why the decision was originally made to not have the school renamed Mark Twain. I spent many years on the Sioux Falls School Board; we had new schools and rebuilt schools, and the precedent was that the name would go along with the school."

School Board member Kent Alberty, who served on the naming committee, said the name change fits with the increasing diversity in the district.

"In the research I had done on Susan B. Anthony, I found out she was one of the first people to fight for equal education, public education for everyone, former slaves, everybody," he said.

School Board President Doug Morrison said he would like to see the history of both the Mark Twain and Longfellow schools preserved somehow in the new school.

"Whether it's naming of certain areas or a trophy case with certain artifacts, something in there to preserve that legacy for those two schools that will be coming off-line," he said. "It's an important history."

That might not be good enough for some area residents.

"I believe I still live in the Mark Twain neighborhood," Bliss said.