By Melissa Dunson

After accepting public comment for a month, the Joplin R-8 Board of Education plans to vote at its meeting Tuesday on whether to rename its new and renovated middle schools after historic Joplin figures.

C.J. Huff, R-8 superintendent, said administrators and board members have received positive and negative feedback from the community on the proposed changes, but he said he doesn’t have a sense of how the board will vote.

“There have been valid arguments on both sides,” Huff said. “My recommendation is still going to be to move forward with the (proposed) names, just like last month. But the board will get the final decision.”

The proposed new names are Lena Beal South Middle School, Marion Dial East Middle School and John Malang North Middle School.

Beal was the first woman to be elected to the Joplin City Council, to serve as mayor, to serve on the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce’s board and to receive the chamber’s Outstanding Citizen Award.

Dial taught in Joplin for 36 years, including serving as the principal of Lincoln School during desegregation. In 1954, he became the first black person elected to the Joplin City Council. He served as the first president of the Southwest Missouri Negro Teachers’ Association and as curator at George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond.

Malang helped write the Morgan-McCullough Law, which started the first state highway program in 1919. He was named the first Missouri superintendent of highways that year. He was instrumental in getting approval of a 2-cent sales tax on gasoline that helped finance what is now the Missouri Department of Transportation.

The board will continue discussion of the name changes in its work session, then vote during its regular meeting.

In other business Tuesday, the board will:

n Discuss the state review coming this month. Joplin will get an abbreviated audit this year because of its high academic performance last year.

Dennis Cooper, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education state supervisor for the southwest region, will be in Joplin on Jan. 21 for the audit, which will include a daylong review and a tour of several buildings.

n Receive an update on the strategic planning procedure from Huff.

On tap

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education will have its work session at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Eagle Talon Room at Joplin High School, 2104 S. Indiana Ave. The regular meeting will follow at 7 p.m. in the high school’s multimedia center. Details (417) 625-5200.

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