OKLAHOMA CITY - Communities are clashing over what to call two merging high schools in the fall. The renaming of Northeast Academy to Classen School of Advanced Studies has sparked a race debate with district leaders. 

The high school has proudly brandished the Northeast name since the 1930s. Now it is reduced to the fine print, and the local community says they had no say.

The marquis now reads Classen SAS at Northeast. At a press conference on school year preparations, OKCPS Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel said that has been the plan all along.

“Each of those name changes was taken before the board on March 4 as part of my recommendation for the reinvention,” McDaniel said.

District 1 school board member Charles Henry disagrees.

“The board had one sheet of paper that stated Northeast would house SAS,” Henry said. “That is not sufficient enough to justify naming the school only Classen SAS.”

At a press conference at the State Capitol, Henry was surrounded by state representatives and Northeast alumni who say their input was never taken into consideration, and fear the “Pride of the East Side,” a predominately African-American neighborhood, is being erased.

The NE Academy alumni association said they hosted a meet and greet events with Classen families and welcomed a compromise.

President Richard Clark reflected, “Soon we would find out that none of that mattered and this was not a merger. It was a takeover.”

Henry added, “Northeast Classen School of Advanced Studies is the solution.”

Now Henry is taking legal action against the district, saying the proper protocol to have public comment and a board vote on the name change never happened.

McDaniel and Henry both cited the same code in the board policy to support each of their positions.

McDaniel said, “If the board chair says this item, whatever it is, is not going to find its way to the agenda, and there are not four board members who say, well, we want it on the agenda, then an item does not get to an agenda.”

Henry maintains the school is still legally Northeast Academy.

“The culture and the name mean something to us,” Henry said. “We’re not grandstanders. We’re not instigators. There are other things that we could be doing. The only thing that we want is fair treatment.”

Henry also has a restraining order against the district to protect his free speech as the controversy continues.