Brand new North River HS renamed Parrish Community High School

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Tuesday night's Manatee County School Board meeting attracted such a large crowd and so much passion, it had to be moved to the Bradenton Area Convention Center. The issue up for debate - whether or not to change the name of a new high school that has yet to open.

After about two hours of comments, debate, and discussion, the board voted 4-1 in favor of changing North River High School to Parrish Community High School.

Prior to the meeting, there was a tailgate outside, organized by Parrish Civic Association, complete with chants, hot dogs and cheerleaders. It was their effort to show school leaders what they're all about.

"We are a community," said Gretchen Fowler, President of the Parrish Civic Association.

"Everyone helps each other and works hard together," said David Sheffer.

The original school name was approved in August 2017. But, following an outcry and a petition from those who thought the new school should include the word "Parrish," the school board agreed to take a second look.

"Everybody in Parrish said what happened? This is ridiculous" Fowler said. "Why is not named after Parrish? It's right in the center of our town."

After six months of input, 40 nominations included Parrish, Parrish Community, North River, Fort Hamer, Donald John Trump, and even Schooly McSchoolface.

"Include the name Parrish and help us maintain the identity and the culture of our community," said Mimi Sheffer when she stood at the podium.

"Parrish is a wonderful, wonderful town and it needs to be Parrish High School," another woman said.

On the opposite end, developers of the new North River Ranch community have spoken out against a change, after basing their name on the nearby school.

The Manatee County NAACP opposed any "Parrish" name because of its connection to a former slave owner, Crawford Parrish.

And some from Palmetto High School said they just didn't want another PHS.

"Nowadays, they done took down statues and everything about slave owners and all this, why should we name a school after a slave owner?" asked Robert Cummings.

Several people with the last name Parrish who spoke at Tuesday's meeting pointed out that the Parrish community was named after Crawford Parrish's sons.

Board Member Charlie Kennedy worried that focusing on the word "Parrish" would exclude students from other areas.

"I want this school to have a name that can represent the community and the place and the identity of Parrish but also be inclusive of the students who attend the school who are not from Parrish," Kennedy said.

Ultimately, the board voted 4-1 in favor of a change, with Kennedy casting the lone vote of opposition. With that, North River High School becomes Parrish Community High School.

"This is about the community, this is about the town, and that is why I believe Parrish should be in the title," said Vice Chairwoman Gina Messenger.

The younger speaker of the night, 7th grader Bradeley Pickwoad, was beaming about the name change for his future high school. "Parrish is able to unite in one vote and one meaning to their high school," Pickwoad said. "We are a community and that this community must stick together as Parrish."

The newly-named Parrish Community High School is still under construction.

It's set to open in August. With the mascot already chosen, they'll now be known as the PCHS Bulls.