School board approves new name for Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights

The school will be known as Two Rivers.
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"Henry Sibley" High School is out, with "Two Rivers" taking its place.

A monthslong name-changing process concluded Monday evening at the School District 197 School Board meeting, when board members voted to rename Mendota Heights' Henry Sibley High School as Two Rivers High School.

Two Rivers was one of five finalists selected in early June, following the creation of a committee and suggestions from students, staff, parents and alumni. The other options were:

  • Hillside High School
  • Mni Sota High School
  • West Heights High School
  • Ohoda High School

"Everybody that has talked to me has had very strong opinions about at least one of the names that was presented today," said Board Chair Joanne Mansur before the final vote, which was 5-1 in favor of Two Rivers.

The lone nay vote came from John Chandler, who explained during the meeting that a lack of enthusiasm or support for the options from his constituents meant he didn't feel right casting an "Aye" vote in any circumstance. He also cited the lack of a consensus (an earlier straw poll of board members during the meeting was 3-2 in favor of Two Rivers, with West Heights in second) as a potential reason to "roll back" the process and provide more opportunities for the public to weigh in, rather than "rushing" the vote.

"If they don't feel great about the name, at least they feel like their voices were heard," Chandler said before the final vote. A handful of attendees applauded following his comments.

But Mansur pointed out the board had voted unanimously to move ahead with the name change months ago, and noted more than six months' worth of work was not "rushing."

After a discussion period, the board voted to approve the name change to Two Rivers High School, with Chandler the only vote against it. 

Henry Sibley was Minnesota's first governor - but he was also a military leader in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, during which he established a military commission that sentenced 303 Dakota men to death. Sibley then protested when President Abraham Lincoln commuted the majority of the sentences. Thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged in Mankato in December 1862, which to this day remains the largest mass execution in United States history. 

The school board, during previous discussions, determined "Henry Sibley High School" did not meet the naming criteria laid out in district policy, which requires namesakes to have demonstrated “good character.”

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